One reasonable objection to my earlier post about pornography is to ask where one might draw the line between legitimate art and execrable pornography. Perhaps a bit of the history of nude art might be in order here.
When one sees such art over the centuries, a consistent major theme is fertility and love goddesses--Venus in particular. Venus/Aphrodite was supposed, of course, to be the goddess of love, specifically erotic love. For the Greek students out there, it's not phileo, and definitely not agape. It's that of her attendant Eros. The mythological "sea foam" origins are also, well, a bit idiomatic, to put it gently, and worship was along the lines of any other love/fertility god or goddess--what the Greeks and the apostle Paul called "porneia."
So what does this mean? Well, for starters, it does mean that the line between art and pornography really isn't as clear as we'd like to believe. It's certainly less disgusting, and somewhat less degrading those involved, but the recurrent theme still is that of the worship of sexuality.
Unfortunately, I'd argue that this carries over to "non-Venusian" art as well. Consider Michaelangelo's "David"; David is divested of his staff, shepherd's bag & pouch, his cloak, and probably a youth's beard--and miraculously obtains the return of his foreskin to boot. In a manner of speaking, Michaelangelo isn't portraying the King of Israel, but rather a Greek "eromenos"--youth in a pederastic relationship--or Eros himself. Donatello and Verrochio do about the same thing to David, making him into quite the pretty boy.
Although I will not argue that nudity in art is completely proscribed, I will suggest that art lovers would do well to think seriously about what many great works really represent.
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