Female nudity features highly in art, and particularly in sculpture. Reflecting complex ideas about sex, fertility, morality, beauty, gender, and national identity it is a much-debated topic. A classical female pose in sculpture is the Venus Pudica, a modest 'shy' Venus. It shows an unclothed female standing or reclining, whilst keeping her hand over her breasts and genitalia. The British art historian Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) believed there was a clear distinction between female nudity in art and nakedness. The female nude in art, such as the Venus Pudica, is seen as an idealised and morally suitable depiction of the female body, as opposed to female nakedness, which is often associated with exposure, vulnerability and embarrassment. Until the 20th century, art, and in particular sculpture, was predominately made and viewed by men. It was not until the 1860s that women in Britain were first able to attend art school. It took a while longer before they were allowed in the life drawing room, unless of course as a model. This had a lasting influence on how the female body has been depicted in art, often moving between idealisation and objectification. The film critic Laura Mulvey describes the manner in which the arts depict women from a male point of view, as the 'male gaze'. Challenging viewers to consider a different viewpoint, Eve, shown here, is turning her back to us.


image: Edward Hodges Baily, Eve at the Fountain (L2)