Is pregnancy the new “fig leaf”?

In his recent article, The Guardian columnist Jonathan Jones addresses the recent nude portrait of celebrity Sienna Miller by painter Jonathan Yeo, which was recently unveiled for an exhibition in Berlin. In the painting, Sienna is depicted entirely nude, and just weeks before giving birth to her daughter, Marlowe. He remarks:

…pregnancy has become the modern equivalent of a fig leaf, making nude images of women acceptable to all sections of society and all divisions of the media… There is nothing new, in other words, in the artistic celebration of the pregnant body. It has simply become a way to soothe our worries about the naked depiction of women.

Regardless of the quality of the painting or the intentions of Miller herself in posing for the piece, I find it difficult to criticize this painting, or nudes in general, as pieces of misogynist culture. Such an attitude only continues to define women and their bodies by their position relative to men. While famous nude painters of antiquity often aimed only to arouse the attention and sexuality of men, to vilify every female nude as an object of male attention is to essentially say that there is no way for women’s bodies to be their own.


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