Nudity, prostitution, and erotic art have long been considered taboo topics in polite conversation. But these scandalous topics play an integral role in human society and psychology, particularly during the Italian Renaissance era.
So many hypocrisies and questions surround these illicit affairs. Why was nudity encouraged and then banned by the Church? Why was erotic art tolerated in papal Rome, even within the pope’s own palace? How did legalized prostitution in Venice contribute to the creation of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto’s most beautiful paintings? This three-part course will contextualize and explore these themes – and more – through the eyes of Italy's renowned Renaissance artists.
Led by Cornelia Danielson, an expert in 15th and 16th Italian art, these conversations aim to investigate the supply and demand for nudity and eroticism in the art of the Renaissance. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the untold reasons behind the creation, and sometimes the censorship, of some of the Renaissance’s most important works.
Lecture 1 – Nudity in the Renaissance: The Bare Bones of the Story
Nudity in 15th and 16th-century Italian art has as much to do with the rediscovery of the art and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome as it did with the teachings of the Church. From Masaccio’s naked Christ child in the Uffizi's “Madonna, Child, and St. Anne” altarpiece to the scantily clad three Graces in Botticelli’s “Primavera “, from dressing Michelangelo’s "David" to Ammanati’s remorse over having created the giant nude of the Neptune Fountain, this lecture explores attitudes towards permissiveness and censorship of nudity in the Renaissance.
Lecture 2 – Art and Pleasure in Papal Rome: Peeking Around in the Palace
From Raphael’s decoration of Agostino Chigi’s pleasure villa on the banks of the Tiber to Cardinal Bibbiena’s bathroom in the Vatican Palace (now kept behind a carefully locked door), this lecture describes how Raphael and his talented workshop, inspired by the erotic art and literature of Antiquity, created images of passion and pleasure in the 16th century papal Rome.
Lecture 3 – Pin-Ups and Prostitutes in Renaissance Venice
While Church and State were important patrons of art in Renaissance Venice so, too, were prostitutes who made up 8% of the population. This lecture explores their story and the suggestive art that was created for them and for a clientele of noblemen by some of Venice’s leading painters.
Cornelia has a PhD in art history from Columbia University and wrote her dissertation on Renaissance city planning. She is especially knowledgeable about Medici patronage.
How does it work?
This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided by your moderator at the course's conclusion.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $105 for three lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.
Not suitable for children under age 13 (sensitive content).
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.