The rediscovery of classical culture in the Renaissance restored the nude to art.
An early example of this is Polykleitos' sculpture Doryphoros (ca. In the convention of heroic nudity, gods and heroes were shown nude, while ordinary mortals were less likely to be so, though athletes and warriors in combat were often depicted nude.
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.
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This is certainly the case for the kouros, a large standing figure of a male nude that was the mainstay of Archaic Greek sculpture.
The first realistic sculptures of nude males, the kouroi depict nude youths who stand rigidly posed with one foot forward.
The nudes of Greco-Roman art are conceptually perfected ideal persons, each one a vision of health, youth, geometric clarity, and organic equilibrium.
Kenneth Clark considered idealization the hallmark of true nudes, as opposed to more descriptive and less artful figures that he considered merely naked.
Japan had a tradition of mixed communal bathing that existed until recently, and was often portrayed in woodcut prints.