This idea inspired artists like
, who started making work that honored the nude body in all its glory. This was a novel idea in his hometown of Florence, where the Catholic Church wielded vast power. His bronze rendition of David
(circa 1440) has been cited by scholars
as the first known sculpture depicting a completely naked figure since antiquity.
Some of his artist-successors followed suit—namely, Michelangelo. Even after receiving criticism for his own version of David (rendered at a much larger scale and with more pronounced physical attributes than Donatello’s) in the early 1500s, he continued to incorporate nudity into his work.
But as Michelangelo’s artistic career developed, the Catholic Church’s crackdown on “lasciviousness” of all kinds also intensified. This had everything to do with accusations of corruption against the church being made by the Protestant Reformation and its leader Martin Luther. Fearful of losing its flock, the Vatican began ordering reforms across the church—including censorship of nudity in art.
Even so, Michelangelo received an abundance of commissions from Popes and other powerful clergymen during his life, most notably the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But sometimes, the Vatican called him out for crossing the line of decency. In the 1540s, some 40 years after his fiasco with David, he pushed his luck yet again—this time, for a wall fresco in the Sistine Chapel depicting the Last Judgement.