Sketch by Leonardo da Vinci

Lisa del Giocondo, better know as the Mona Lisa, is appearing nude for the first time in her iconic career — already considered the most successful in the history of the industry. Her stark debut will appear in an upcoming edition of the Renaissance Man’s Swimsuit Edition. This move, undertaken weeks ago at the Louvre in Paris in great secrecy, was only just confirmed. It has generated controversy and drawn a mixed response from her fans and the wider art world:

“She may as well just stark twerking.”

“The world needs more boobs.”

“This is art now? We really need to get back to traditional representations of women in media.”

“It’s disgusting. It really shows how far our culture has fallen. They never would have drawn something like that before these darn millennials and this whole Renaissance nonsense.”

“I think it’s really brave.  It’s a way to own her sexuality, you know? Take it back from the patriarchy. This is Lisa saying that aesthetics are not the exclusive purview of the male gaze!”

“I just don’t want to see so many boobies.  I hear they follow you around the room.”

“Of course I’ll take a look, but I swear it’s for the cultural literacy.”

La Fornarina by Raphael

The Mona Lisa will be joining an illustrious list of ladies to bare all beneath a master’s brush. Venus famously posed for Botticelli in her birthday suit (image below), and was a favorite of artists for centuries. Diana appeared dishabille a number of  times, and the mysterious star of Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love left little to the imagination. Bernini captured St. Teresa at a downright scandalous moment, while Raphael, that hound dog, went so far as to paint his own mistress in all her glory (image at left). And these are just more modern examples. Some of the oldest known art features prominent promiscuity.


The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

But nudity is not a recipe for success, nor is it a prerequisite. Madonna, who dominated the scene throughout the Renaissance, staged an incredible comeback in the 80’s and 90’s fueled largely by her overt sexuality.

David by Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello)

And this has never been limited to the female form — just look at the treatment David received at the height of his career. He has been depicted countless times, often baring all to his eager fans. When Donatello first showed him in the buff (image at right), it was the first time the naked body had been so tenderly formed since the Romans. By the time David made his reappearance in Michelangelo’s more famous work some 60 years later, dongs adorned the halls of power from the Papacy to the British Isles.

Nor is this the first controversy in the Mona’s long career, and many critics believe it is precisely because of these controversies that she has risen to such widespread renown. Since being spirited from her homeland, she has graced kings with her presence, had a rumored elopement with cubist heavyweight Pablo Picasso, and even slept with an Emperor. She has been abducted, attacked, and held captive; but her prestige has never suffered for it. If anything, she has emerged from each episode more famous than ever. But fame is a fickle friend. Will this latest endeavor give her career the renaissance some think it needs? Only time will tell. You go, Mona!