Saint Sebastian c1533 Agnolo Bronzino, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Saint Sebastian c1533 Agnolo Bronzino, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

THE RENAISSANCE NUDE

WHAT? The Renaissance Nude

WHERE? Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly London W1J OBD

WHEN? Now until 2nd June 

WHY GO? To ponder the continual obsession artists had with painting nudes, but marvel at their sheer physical beauty when depicted by the likes of Titian and Raphael. Throw in a few erotic ones like Battle of the Nudes (lots of naked men waving swords), the famous engraving by Pollaiuolo, anatomical works-in-progress by Leonardo da Vinci, plus plenty of pious martyrdom and you have an exhibition that excites the senses in more ways than one.

IN THE KNOW? The RA’s ‘poster boy’ is the beautiful Bronzino painting of Saint Sebastian, a favourite saint and martyr who was shot through with arrows whilst tied to a tree.  His beauty was said to incite many improper thoughts to congregations of the day and indeed, he’s recognised even today as something of a gay icon.

Bronzino was not his real name, but a sobriquet referring to his dark skin and reddish hair, the artist was Agnolo di Cosimo who was born and lived all his life in Florence.