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The Best Bottoms In Art History
The cheekier side of art
Around the Globe 08 Jul 2020

Just because we’re socially distancing right now, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little fun. The Yorkshire Museum in York, England, is clearly having a lot of laughs. The museum recently started a Twitter contest calling curators located across the world to find the “best museum bum” in their collections. Beginning their search by posting an image of a marble Roman derriere, the museum’s PR department must be rubbing their hands in glee as it has caused A LOT of attention. In fact, the Yorkshire Museum’s twitter launches weekly curator battles to provide curators with some fun during what is understandably a very difficult time for institutions across the world. And, because we love a little giggle too, we’ve rounded up a list of our favourite behinds in art history too. 

These Lovers On A Mosaic At The Piazza Armerina

This Sicilian mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale is super saucy. Located in the villa’s master bedroom (where else?), this bottom is said to belong to Venus and is supposed to have been put there to arouse and aid fertility.

Project for Door (After Gaetano Pesce), Anthea Hamilton, 2015

Coverage of the 2017 Turner Prize was dominated by a certain behind. Anthea Hamilton’s oversized bottom was intended to be a doorway for a New York apartment block. Inspired by a photograph by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce, the project was never realised, but was inserted in London’s Tate Museum. 

Nude Woman, Joaquin Sorolla, 1902

What an elegant bottom. This lady certainly looks like she’s living a life of luxury, and to be honest, we’re kind of jealous. Perfect curves, and lounging on dreamy pink satin, gorgeous!

Untitled, Tom Of Finland, 1973

Tom Of Finland is famous for his hunky depictions of partially uniformed men, so we couldn’t compile this list without him. Well-known for his stylized, homoerotic art, it’s no surprise that he had a huge influence on late twentieth century gay culture.

The Rokeby Venus, Diego Velazquez, 1647-51

This painting is probably most famous today because it was attacked in 1914 by suffragette Mary Richardson, who hacked it with a meat cleaver after her fellow suffragette – Emmeline Pankhurst – was arrested the day before. Luckily, the painting has been repaired. At the time Richardson said that she tried to destroy the painting of the most beautiful woman in mythological history because the British government destroyed Emmeline Pankhurst, who she deemed to be the most beautiful character in modern history. Richardson later went on to say that she also didn’t appreciate the way men “gaped” at the painting. 

Le Violon d’Ingres, Man Ray, 1924

This portrait of Man Ray’s muse Kiki de Montparnasse is super dreamy, turning her back into a violin. Apparently, Ingres had a passion for the violin, and “le violon d’Ingres” is a well known expression in French. Man Ray’s photograph was also inspired by Ingres’s characters in his paintings of Turkish baths, which explains why Kiki is wearing a turban. 

Pygmalion And Galatea, Jean-Leon Gerome, 1890

The story in this painting comes from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. In the tale the sculptor Pygmalion falls in love with a sculpture that he carves. As a result, Aphrodite brings her to life and they kiss. Kinda sweet, kinda creepy…

David, Michelangelo, 1501-1504

As if we could compile a list of bottoms in art history and not include Michelangelo’s David?! Chiselled to perfection, this beautifully executed piece of marble has raised eyebrows – and pulses – for centuries!

Bum, Pauline Boty, 1966

This bottom was the last painting Boty ever made. Centre stage, this booty certainly isn’t shy. Painted in bright colours, it is super fun and a little naughty. We love it!  

Philip Golub Reclining, Sylvia Sleigh, 1971

Sylvia Sleigh is perhaps the queen of painting male nudes. In this painting Philip Golub – who happens to be the son of Nancy Spero – takes on the pose of the Rokeby Venus. Not only does Sleigh reverse the gender roles of artists and muses, but she also inserts herself into the painting too.  

Persian Nude, Cyrus Mahboubian, 2016

Isn’t this one just gorgeous?! There’s something about polaroids – especially black and white – that makes everything that much more dreamy. This peach is lying on a Persian rug and looks super luxurious!

Venus And Adonis, Titian, 1554

Titian painted multiple versions of this love story, which became extremely popular because of Venus’s peach. The painting shows Venus clinging on to Adonis as he pulls away from her. The story is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where Venus falls in love with Adonis after she is hit by one of Cupid’s arrows by mistake. The fact that Venus is trying to stop Adonis from leaving her foretells the end of the story, where Venus warns her lover not to hunt after dangerous animals. Alas, Adonis does not listen to Venus, and he dies after being attacked by a boar.

Text Lizzy Vartanian 

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