Beauty and desire

Beauty and desire

Explore how beauty and desire has been reflected in art through our collections.


This is part of the Sex and eroticism collection.

Some of the artworks here are not necessarily overtly aimed at stimulating sexual desire but celebrate the beauty of male faces and bodies by men, or female faces and bodies by women.

Other artworks here use mythological figures to relate the danger of an obsessive desire for beauty and youth. Beauty has throughout history been closely linked to morality and social harmony.

Unlike the erotic, which has always been linked to personal taste and sexual preference, beauty has been more commonly thought of as a universal truth.  The nude has been associated with expressions of an ideal and universal beauty, since it was used by Ancient Greeks. The perfect male form was considered to be ‘the mirror of the soul’, an expression of pure goodness.