[Milton-L] Nude or Naked?

Hannibal Hamlin hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
Mon Jul 25 17:32:17 EDT 2011


I think "nude" and "naked" are words that originally meant exactly the same
thing (indeed the OED suggests they share the same Indo-european root) but
which have been appropriated as terms of art by art historians post Kenneth
Clark. Like others in this discussion, I'm skeptical about the distinction.
My skepticism begins with the use of the words themselves, in other words
with what seems a false distinction between actual synonyms. But more
important is the falseness of the conceptual distinction they are made to
represent. Lucien Freud is perfect for muddling this up, it seems to me.
Undeniably and notoriously, many of Freud's human subjects have no clothes
on. To me, they seem very much naked, rather than nude, in the art
historical sense. There is nothing ideal about them, just the opposite --
all the wobbly bits more wobbly than one could imagine, warts and all, yards
and yards of fleshly flesh. Just the opposite, in a way, of Michelangelo's
David. Yet Freud's figures also seem sexless, don't they? Or rather, though
one recognizes that his figures are capable of having sex, they don't arouse
any sexual desire in the viewer. (I realize I'm going out on a limb here,
but isn't this right?) So Freud's unclothed bodies are naked but non-sexual.
Michelangelo's David, on the other hand, is as "nude" (in Clark's sense) as
one can get, and yet he seems highly sexual. Richard mentioned Leonard
Barkan's account of people masturbating to Classical sculpture -- it's hard
to imagine anyone doing the same to Freud's paintings (generally speaking --
I realize almost anything can seem sexual to someone).

In sum, the categories of naked and nude are mixed and muddled, it seems to
me. One further thought -- the most highly eroticized human bodies in our
contemporary culture are far more akin to David, highly sculpted and
muscled, not an ounce of fat, disproportionately large appendages, than to
Freud's figures. At the very least, this suggests to me that the "nude" may
be more erotically charged than the "naked."

Returning to Milton, surely Adam and Eve, in their perfection, would look
like figures in an Abercrombie and Fitch ad, or at least like whatever model
of physical perfection prevailed in seventeenth century England (the Adam
and Eves of Durer, Cranach, Masaccio, Michelangelo aren't far off). So the
art historians might call them "nude," but to the viewer that makes them
more sexually appealing not less.

Very interesting thread.

Hannibal




On Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 10:14 AM, Michelle Zappa
<michelleazappa at gmail.com>wrote:

> I believe that as it relates to art, sculpture, photography, 'nude' refers
> to posed - and therefore unnatural - whilst 'naked' means simply someone
> unclothed - and therefore natural. The artist has purposefully positioned
> the unclothed body to create the right mood when
> painting/sculpturing/photographing a nude. What was so interesting about
> Lucian Freud, in the article referenced above, was that he managed to make
> his posed models look as though they were entirely naturalistic.
>
> I'm not sure that that is entirely relevant to Milton, but there we are...
>
> Michelle
>
> On 25 July 2011 03:07, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>wrote:
>
>> Jim Watt wrote: "Sorry Salwa (and Jeffrey, too) for mis-reading and
>> mis-spelling."
>>
>>
>>
>> Maybe I should just change my name . . .
>>
>>
>>
>> But Still,
>>
>>
>>
>> Jeffery Hodges
>>
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-- 
Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
Editor, *Reformation*
Co-curator, *Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King
James Bible*
http://www.manifoldgreatness.org/
The Ohio State University
164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
Columbus, OH 43210-1340
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
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