Musée D’Orsay: A Nude Male Art Guide

Musée D’Orsay: A Nude Male Art Guide

The Ancient Greeks were the first to notice the magnificence of the male body. The masculine physique was portrayed as a symbol of courageous and athletic beauty in their idealized representations. The Musée d'Orsay in Paris is indeed a witness to the evolution of nude male art over the years. In contrast, the few female statues that existed at the time were dressed and pure.

Nude male art eventually went out of fashion, and the female nude became the objectification focal point. The traditional consumer of art in the past was a man, and this presentation of the female body for pleasure transformed the female nude into an accepted object of male desire.

A couple of years ago, one of the Musée d’Orsay’s featured exhibit was Masculin/Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 à nos jours (Nude Male Art From 1800 to Today). From September 24, 2013 through January 2, 2014, the show was open to the public. Inside, a relatively large banner depicted Mercure (Mercury), the heroic winged messenger and trickster deity of Roman mythology, created by French art photography pair Pierre et Gilles.

The exposition is organized thematically, with "L'Idéal classique, the Classic Ideal" serving as the first stop. This idea has been around since the Ancient Greeks carved away at the marble to show finely molded masculine figures. However, in my perspective, these statues were seldom erotic.

The Louvre loaned life-size replica of the Barberini Faun by Edmé Bouchardon was however one exception. In my college art history lecture, I vividly recall seeing a picture of the Barberini Faun displayed onto a projector in all its sensual, splayed beauty. The creature is a satyr, who is normally shown as a half-man, half-goat monster, but who in this context refers to a disciple of Dyionysus, the deity of pleasure and alcohol. Thus, it happens that nude male art refers to Greek mythology.

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