The fact that there are such few male nudes in art stands as proof that for the longest time women couldn’t access the art world. Even if they could, it would have been highly inappropriate for them to be alone in a room with a naked male model, let alone paint them for hours.
Some of the most compelling male nudes then, were often created by gay men, such as Michelangelo’s magnificent sculptures and the paintings of Russian artist Konstantin Somov. Somov did a number of male nudes, some endearing, some more casual, but always enhanced by an underlying sexuality and desire. Of all Somov’s nudes, I find The Boxer to be the most tantalizing due to the way it has been cropped, just as we’re beginning to notice the young man’s pubic hair. While it does not show everything, the suggestion alone increases the sexual tension.
With his ripped muscles and the boxing gloves behind him, we know we’re looking at a young athlete. His right hand is in a peculiar pose, like a teacher would hold a piece of chalk in front of the classroom. It gives him a more pensive look, suggesting that he’s not just brawn. His face also looks gentle, preoccupied and slightly sad. There is clearly more behind his tough exterior. The portrait itself seems more like an expression of affection and desire than the mere act of flaunting one’s muscular body.