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Nudes in Arts

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Nudes is a classical object for any artist.  They start painting their family and friends, then come the self-portraits, and finally -- before anything else, even landscapes and still lives -- come the nudes.  It never fails, and some artists even paint only the human body and nudes throughout their whole life and career -- they so-to-say specialize in nude studies. 

For a long time I have built up a nice collection of Nudes on Stamps, but never wanted to display on the web because they seemed a bit "ordinary" for the purpose.  Then, when a friend recently sent me a whole sheet of stamps with only nudes on it, the idea was born to make a "different" page about this interesting subject.   

Here is the sheet "Masters of Nude Paintings" that took my fancy.  In spite of the sheet's obvious voluptuousness it illustrates beautifully  -- nearly chronologically -- nude painting from ancient times until today, like an anthology of literature.  It was issued by Equatorial Guinea in 1975, Scott # 75124-75159.  Although it is listed in Scott as issued 1975, the CTO-cancellation on the sheet says 26th March 1974.  From top -- left to right:  

Equatorial Guinea 1974. Sheet of Nude Paintings.

  • Ancient Egyptian Frescoe depicting three dancers, found in Tomba Nakht, c. 1420 BC.
  • Aphrodite, Greek Vase Painting, 5th-4th century BC.
  • The Three Graces, Frescoe at Pompei, ca. 100 BC.
  • Indian Frescoe, showing a Virgin with Golden Skin, c. 5th century BC.
  • Adam and Eve in Paradise; painting by Hugo van der Goes c. 1465, as a travelling altar piece.
  • Suicide of Lucretia; painting by Albrecht Durer c. 1518.
  • Venus in the Bath; painting by Johann Liss, ca. 1625.
  • The Lady on the Terrace; Indian miniature, 18th century.
  • Negro Woman; painting by Comtesse Benoist, c. 1800.
  • Nude in a Landscape; painting by Renoir 1883.
  • Girl from Tahiti; painting by Gauguin 1897.
  • Nude with a Handkerchief; painting by Steinlein 1900.
  • Woman in the Bathroom; painting by Picasso 1906.
  • Elvira; painting by Modigliani 1918.
  • Nude on Red Background; painting by Matisse 1925.
  • Nude; painting by Paul Mathias Padua, c. 1950. 

Click on the image to see larger version.  The link will open in a new window.

Important Notice
Due to international copyright legislation I am unable to show any images of art works on stamps by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Mathias Padua until 70 years after their death.  For Picasso such images are only permissible in 2043 (!), for Matisse in 2024 (!), and for Padua in 2051 (!). They are therefore digitally removed as per demand from Copy-Dan, the Danish Copyright Organisation. I do regret any inconvenience. 

Most of the paintings on the sheet, made in our current era, are well known; the four stamps in the top row, all frescoes from the era before Christ, show the elegance, beauty and lavish wealth in which our ancestors lived and passed their ideas on to their posterity.  

Equatorial Guinea 1974. Nudes. Scott # 75124.

Scott # 75124

Equatorial Guinea 1974. Nudes. Scott # 75125,

Scott # 75125

Equatorial Guinea 1974. Nudes. Scott # 75126.

Scott # 75126

Equatorial Guinea 1974. Nudes. Scott # 75127.

Scott # 75127

Francisco Goya.
The below beautiful painting was made in 1827, and belongs to the Prado Museum in Madrid.  It is pretty large (97 x 190 cm), and shows clearly the then ideal for the female body.  The stamp is an engraving, and is only the third art issue by Spain.  It is part of a set of three stamps with the same motif, but in different colours (dark violet, slate gray and red brown) and surface values (1, 4, and 10 Pesetas) respectively. 

  • Spain 1930.  The Naked Maja by Francisco Goya.  
    Scott # 308.

In 1930 the US government, through the U.S. Post Office Department, forbade and returned letters coming from Spain carrying this stamp because of the nudity that was at that time considered obscene !!   How times have changed :) 

Spain 1930. Nudes. "The Naked Maya" by Francisco Goya. Scott 308.

Overreactions to nudity seem to have been the order of the day as late as 1946-1947.  The French air mail stamp (1947) Scott # C20, depicting Zeus carrying Hebe, is part of a set issued 1946-1947 featuring the subject "mythology", but this particular stamp did not appear in 1946 together with the others in the set, but on 20th January 1947.  The whole set was designed by the French stamp designer and engraver, Pierre Gandon, who in the designing process had presented several designs for approval, among these a draft design in black ink, and a first die. 

draft design in black ink

first die

But when Gandon presented his drafts to the minister for postal affairs, the minister found them too "erotic", but yet asked Gandon to tell him the legend about Hebe, daughter of the River-God Asopos by Zeus, and abducted to the island given her name.  

France 1947. Nudes. Abduction of Hebe. Scott # C20.

Having read the mythological legend, the minister asked Gandon "to turn Hebe to the side, as this would be more appropriate". Gandon redid his die, and this time it was accepted. 

  • France 1947.  Abduction of Hebe.  Scott # C20. 

Source:  Philatelic Anecdotes

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