Nude paintings were much popular during the 19th century notably in France where painters such as François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard produced some spectacular erotic works showing naked women in lustful postures only to be surpassed by Francisco Goya whose «Maja desnuda» appeared to be quite pornographic in the eyes of his contemporaries.
Nude figures remained however in demand until the fall of Emperor Napoleon 1st before the Victorian era imposed a kind of embargo on woman nakedness. Strict attitudes then prevented painters from say taking the clothes off their models.
Only a few painters ignored that sort of embargo which lasted until at least 1860 and it
was in France again where pornographic pictures had been circulating clandestinely in the 1830's that the trend for nude paintings resumed, notably with Corot, Puvis de Chavannes, Delacroix and some other masters who however adopted an academic approach to treat
Then, the success of orientalist scenes induced several painters, notably Jean-Léon
Gérôme, to represent slave markets with lovely women being bought by Arab merchants or harems and their sexy naked female occupants resting or taking a bath.
Edouard Manet with his «Olympia» painted in the 1860's was among the very first heirs of Goya who did not bother much with the bourgeois censorship regarding postures. Even so Manet, Renoir, Degas and those who painted naked figures were still miles away from Gustave Courbet who certainly produced the most shocking work of the 19th century called «The creation of the world» and simply showing a woman's womb and her vagina covered by pubic hair between two appealing thighs.
This painting, made for a Turkish pacha, was never shown in public while its various owners used to hide it behind another work and it was not before the 1990's that it came out of secrecy. It is now exhibited in the Orsay Museum in Paris.
Today, 19th and early 20th century nude paintings are quite in demand, notably those works with women in lewd postures which made people blush 100 years ago and simply smile nowadays.
Good nude paintings are not so easy to find. Usually there are no more than a handful in
each of the half a dozen sales of 19th century paintings held every year by Christie's and Sotheby's in London and New York. As a result prices are always quite strong.
Victoriano Codina y Langlin
(Between $ 15,000 and 30,000)
"A female nude by a pool "