Different versions of Venus pudica

The aim of painters in the early and mid-fifteenth century was truthfulness to nature rather than a conscious imitation of classical styles. In the search for naturalism they were aided by the anatomical discoveries of sculptors and by the new laws of perspective that had been formulated by Brunelleschi. As with architecture and sculpture it was the Florentine school that led the way in painting. The first to exploit the new possibilities in perspective were Masaccio, notably in the fresco of the Trinity in S. Maria Novella, and similarly in the human body in the frescoes of the Brancacci Chapel in S. Maria del Carmine. In his frescoes Masaccio certainly borrowed from antiquity but apparently from second hand. The classical architecture in the Trinity more likely to have come from notebooks made by Brunelleschi while he was in Rome, which were known to the painter, than from an actual building. Similarly, the strong echo of the Venus pudica in the figure of Eve from the Expulsion may have been derived not from a classical sculpture but from a figure by Giovanni Pisano in the Pisa cathedral which personifies the Christian virtue of Prudence. Scholars have also pointed out the likely precedents for the figure of Adam, classical models such as Marsyas and more contemporary examples such as Donatello's Crucifix in the S. Croce.

The Medici Venus
after Cleomenes of Athens
1st century B.C. copy
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Expulsion of Adam and Eve
by Masaccio
1422-26
Brancacci Chapel, Florence
Prudence
by Giovanni Pisano
1302
Cathedral pulpit, Pisa

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