Michelangelo's intensely personal use of the nude greatly altered its character. He changed it from a means of embodying ideas to a means of expressing emotions; he transformed it from the world of living to the world of becoming. And he projected his world of the imagination with such unequaled artistic power that its shadow fell on every male nude in art for three hundred and fifty years. Painters either imitated his heroic poses and proportions or they reacted against them self-consciously and sought a new repertoire of attitudes in the art of fifth- century Greece. In the nineteenth century the ghost of Michelangelo was still posing the models in art schools, and compelling would-be realists to see a system of forms invented to express his own troubled emotions. Gericault has used one of the athletes of the Sistine as the culminating figure in his Radeau de la Meduse, and even the archrealist Courbet, in his Wrestlers, was not able to shake off what Blake called that Outrageous Demon. [210]

Left two:and David McGill's’s The Victor Marget Giles’s Hero. Right two: John Gibson’s Panora and Venus. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

How does Michelangelo’s nudes, which emotion powerful emotions, relate (or not) to Giles’s Hero and Gibson’s Venus? McGill's’s The Victor or Gibson’s Panora?


Clark, Kenneth. The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form. Bollingen Series 35.2. New York: Pantheon Books, 1956.

Last modified 16 February 2007