The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 23, 2018

Battle of the Nudes, 1470s-1480s

engraving, Sheet: 42.4 x 60.9 cm (16 11/16 x 23 15/16 in.); Platemark: 42 x 60.4 cm (16 1/2 x 23 3/4 in.). Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1967.127

This engraving is one of the earliest Renaissance prints to portray the nude male body in action. Pollaiuolo’s grimacing warriors appear like clones in different poses. The print may have functioned as a model for workshop apprentices studying human anatomy while learning to draw; however, the artist’s Latin signature suggests it also had an audience educated in literature. Art historians remain uncertain whether Pollaiuolo intended to depict a particular story or historical event. It is possible he created a deliberately ambiguous allegory that would appeal to patrons interested in interpreting symbols. For example, the continuous chain shared by the two central men could refer to an ancient idea that the body is the chain of the soul, only to be released in death.

Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Museum of Art; August 25-October 27, 2002. "Battle of the Nudes: Pollaiuolo's Rennaissance Masterpiece". exh. cat. number 1, p. 2. CMA, "Treasures on Paper from the Collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art" (Mar. 9, 2014-Jun. 8, 2014) The Cleveland Museum of Art (08/26/2017-12/31/2017): “Gods and Heroes: Ancient Legends in Renaissance Art”

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