The most romantic day of the year—Valentine’s Day, not Susan B. Anthony’s birthday—is almost upon us. And that means hunters can join fun, flirty Naked at the Art Museum scavenger hunts all over the country.
In those hunts, you’ll go in search of the most enticing and unusual nudes in art history. Here are some highlights from naked hunts past and present.
Leaving on Her Mind
Fans of sci-fi may enjoy the story of Apollo and Daphne. After Cupid hit Apollo with an arrow, the sun god pursued Daphne, a nymph. She asked her father, the river god Peneus, for help, and he transformed her into a laurel tree. (Thanks, Dad.)
On the Naked at the National Gallery Hunt, you’ll see Tiepolo’s rendition of the critical moment, when Daphne’s limbs start to sprout leaves, branches, and bark. The aftermath is seen on the Naked at the Getty Hunt, where Apollo crowns himself with a laurel wreath—which is where we got the idea of laurels as honors. And from Daphne we got Daphne Zuniga, star of Melrose Place and Spaceballs. (Seriously, she was named for the Greek goddess.)
Toulouse-Lautrec liked to paint in brothels, and such was probably the case for Model Resting, a favorite on past Naked at the Getty Hunts. The secret ingredient for this work? Casein, a milk-based paint. Paging Dr. Freud…
You May Be the Biggest Planet, But…
You don’t see too many hen-pecked husbands in art museums (at least not on the walls). But on the Naked at the Art Institute of Chicago Hunt, you might pity Abraham Jannssens’ glum, slumping Jupiter, scolded by his wife, Venus. The label reports that the nature of the dispute is unknown, but judging by her gesture and that strangely positioned eagle, we’re guessing that size still matters.
Diana, the goddess of the hunt, may be second only to Venus in popularity as a nude figure in art. She can show up in surprising guises: Both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have examples of an ingenious 17th-century drinking game starring Diana. She appears riding a stag as part of an automaton, a kind of wind-up toy. Wind her up, set her on a table, and whoever she stops in front of must remove the stag’s head and drink the wine inside. Now that’s a stag party.
She’s a Marble House
The naked hunts remind you that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. For example: A figure on the Naked at the Met Hunt reveals that if you want to tell a Cycladic scholar that “Baby’s got back,” use the word steatopygous (from puge, the Greek word for butt).
The Most Shocking Nude?
Our first naked hunt was at the Met in March 2001. In all these years, we’ve only received one complaint from offended hunters. It came a few years ago on the Naked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Hunt. The hunt question wasn’t objectionable—it was the work of art itself. The culprit: Marcel Duchamp’s installation Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas. Duchamp worked on it for two decades before his death, a period when he claimed to have abandoned art to concentrate on playing chess. To see this nude, you literally have to peep through a hole in an old door. The PMA website describes what you see but provides only a tiny image of it. Guess you’ll just have to join us in Philadelphia!