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Below the provocative, typically mordant title--guaranteed to draw stares in public--Hollander has written a learned, amusing, exhaustive history of Western art and the changing fashions of being human in it: ""the accepted contemporary look not of chic, not of ideal perfection, but of natural reality."" ""The eye always tends unconsciously to confirm the connection between figures in pictures and the real look of other people,"" is her thesis, and to pictures and statues she goes in depth, though literary descriptions of dress and theatrical style are not overlooked. Hollander focuses on certain traditional tensions, such as the rivalry of un-clothed nakedness with idealized nudity. Even the fashion in the naked body has changed, from ancient Greece where men were usually portrayed nude and women never were, to the near contrary in more recent times, and from the medieval belly as the focus of female sensuality to the later obsession with breasts and buttocks and the very recent return to the leg. Clothes, Hollander contends, are natural to all humanity, the beads of the primitive as important as the overcoat; and complete bareness is equally unusual and, hence, significant, in both societies. The functions of costume and the uses of mirrors are examined; psychology, economics, and religious ethics come within her scope; and she does not pause until photography and film have been dealt with. Fascinating, clever, and chock full of illustrations which will please those put off by the meaty prose with its acres of theory and proof and the prevailing sense of the gallery guide.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1978
ISBN: 0520082311
Publisher: Viking