It was a central preoccupation of Ancient Greek art, and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position in Western art with the Renaissance.Athletes, dancers, and warriors are depicted to express human energy and life, and nudes in various poses may express basic or complex emotions such as pathos.In the mid-fourth century BC, the sculptor Praxiteles made a nude Aphrodite, called the Knidian, which established a new tradition for the female nude, having idealized proportions based on mathematical ratios as were the nude male statues.The nudes of Greco-Roman art are conceptually perfected ideal persons, each one a vision of health, youth, geometric clarity, and organic equilibrium.An important innovation was contrapposto—the asymmetrical posture of a figure standing with one leg bearing the body's weight and the other relaxed.
Japan had a tradition of mixed communal bathing that existed until recently, and was often portrayed in woodcut prints.
Representations of gods and goddesses in Babylonian and Ancient Egyptian art are the precursors of the works of Western antiquity.
Other significant non-Western traditions of depicting nudes come from India, and Japan, but the nude does not form an important aspect of Chinese art.
In Ancient Greece, where the mild climate was conducive to being lightly-clothed or nude whenever convenient, and male athletes competed at religious festivals entirely nude, and celebrated the human body, it was perfectly natural for the Greeks to associate the male nude form with triumph, glory, and even moral excellence.
The Greek goddess Aphrodite was a deity whom the Greeks preferred to see clothed.Christian attitudes cast doubt on the value of the human body, and the Christian emphasis on chastity and celibacy further discouraged depictions of nakedness, even in the few surviving Early Medieval survivals of secular art.