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In 1870 the English painter John Everett Millais, the future 1st Baronet and President of the Royal Academy, presented a large painting ‘with the almost life size figures‘ at the Royal Academy. The painting The Knight Errant shows a medieval knight ‘freeing a woman who has been stripped and tied to a tree’.

The Knight Errant (1870) by John Everett Millais

The Knight Errant (1870) by John Everett Millais

The tree, a Silver Birch, was commonly identified with the female gender in the nineteenth century and was sometimes referred to as ‘Lady Birch’. Birch twigs were also traditionally used in flagellation. The woman’s clothes lie on the ground to the left and her molesters, assumed to be robbers by one critic, are seen fleeing the scene in the top right corner of the canvas. There is blood on the Knight’s sword and the torso of a dead man is visible behind him. (Rebecca Virag at Tate Collection)

But this painting with such a naive classical content stirred up feelings of dissatisfaction among the public and critics. The artist’s naturalistic approach was recognized as unacceptable. The critics thought the woman was ‘too life-like’, especially in comparison ‘with the continental practice of idealising the nude’. In June 1870, the Art Journal claimed that ‘the manner is almost too real for the treatment of the nude‘.

Sharp criticism made Millais ‘cut out the head and chest of the female figure from his canvas and re-work these parts to show the woman turning modestly away‘. Through X-ray examination of the picture, it is seen that woman’s ‘head and torso were originally turned towards the Knight, establishing eye contact’. The painter didn’t painted nude female figures anymore in his career.

It is remarkable that the original section with woman’s head may be seen on another Millais’ canvas called The Martyr of The Solway.

The Martyr of the Solway (c.1871) by John Everett Millais

The Martyr of the Solway (c.1871) by John Everett Millais

Using these two pictures Martin Beek made the wonderful probable reconstruction of the initial painting.

Knight Errant 1870 by Millais and the Victorian Nude by Martin Beek | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Knight Errant 1870 by Millais and the Victorian Nude by Martin Beek | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Links
1. Tate Collection | The Knight Errant by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
2. Tate Collection | Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
3. File:The Knight Errant 1870.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
4. File:John Everett Millais – The Martyr of the Solway.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
5. John Everett Millais – Wikimedia Commons
6. John Everett Millais – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
7. Knight Errant 1870 by Millais and the Victorian Nude. Millais and Manet. | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Traditionally it was believed that the Ghent Altarpiece was begun by Hubert van Eyck, who died in 1426 whilst work was underway, and completed by his younger brother Jan van Eyck, but some modern researchers distinguished the hand of only one artist, namely Jan van Eyck, in this painting.

This altarpiece is one of the few large fifteenth-century polyptychs that can be seen today in its original location at Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium (The Visual Arts: A History, Revised Edition by Hugh Honour, John F. Fleming). It was a fundamentally innovative work in its depiction of naturalism. (Blurring the boundaries between art and life: Jan van Eyck’s Ghent altarpiece (1425-32) by Diane G. Scillia)

The Ghent Altarpiece (Adam and Eve) by Jan van Eyck

The Ghent Altarpiece (Adam and Eve) by Jan van Eyck

Karel van Mander (1548 – 1606) wrote that the Ghent Altarpiece could serve as proof of Jan van Eyck’s  scholarship, because of

the fig that Eve holds in her hand; for St Augustine prefers to believe that it was a fig that Adam ate rather than an apple; the reason is that literally the text speaks of a fruit, and does not distinguish which fruit; but they clothed themselves with fig-leaves <…> and not with the leaves of apple. (The Lives of the illustrious Netherlandish and German painters by Karel van Mander)

It was, of course, a great discovery by Augustine of Hippo and a sigh of real scholarship. So I thought I should make a note of it, to remember in the future. Concerning the altarpiece, one may say that its naturalism didn’t stand it in good stead. In the 19th century, the naked representations of Adam and Eve were considered unacceptable in a church and the panels were replaced by dressed reproductions.

The Ghent Altarpiece (Adam and Eve dressed)

The Ghent Altarpiece (Adam and Eve dressed)

Only in the 20th century Jan’s Adam and Eve returned to their original positions. (see Adam and Eve: Shameless First Couple of the Ghent Altarpiece by Linda Seidel).

I was not expecting that my first post would receive a warm welcome. Especially I didn’t expected to be mentioned in such a great blog as All Nudist. I would like to thank Angie & Steve, todaysnewsart, Rick and everybody who read my post.

I think, I should make a kind of statement 🙂

1. First of all I would like to apologize (yes, I cannot stop apologizing :-() for the maxim in my yesterday’s comment.  The thought of producing witty sentences never occurred to me before.

2. It is great that among first readers of the blog were the bloggers that don’t have problems with nudity. Although I’m not going to make an exclusively nudist blog, it might happen that some nude people (including myself) will appear here again.

I don’t want to harm anybody’s feelings. I’m asking individuals who either don’t want to see nudity in the blog, or don’t have legal rights to visit web resources containing nudity just to ignore my posts.

3. I remember the JBS (Danish men’s underwear company) advertising campaignMen don’t want to look at naked men‘ with pictures showing women in men’s underwear. I would like to say that I personally don’t want to look at women in men’s underwear as well. But what is more important, I don’t like the confusion of nudity with sex illustrated by this slogan.

4. I don’t understand why so many people confuse a photo of an individual with an individual himself.

One example. Many years ago I was impressed by the Francois Boucher‘s “Reclining Girl” (1752) in the Old Pinakothek in Munich.

Reclining Girl by Francois Boucher

Reclining Girl by Francois Boucher

It was interesting to me to discover that Miss Louise O’Murphy depicted in that portrait never served as a model. The picture arose, according to the art book, like all the others, from the artist’s own imagination.

Despite the fact that the photography is definitely closer to reality than painting, it is still incomparably far from it.