From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
One more term needs to be added to the 'erotic vocabulary of the Renaissance Everyman'. In both print and painting we see that eroticism is being practiced for the sake of eroticism, without allegorical meaning: gratuitous nudity, nudity for the sake of nudity. In contemporary film theory, the term 'gratuitous nudity' is often contrasted to 'functional nudity'. The earliest painting in this category is arguably the Venus of Urbino, as one of the first paintings to omit any reference to mythology or the bible altogether. There are two other striking paintings in the same category, both showing women with a bare torso. The woman in the first painting is almost completely naked from the waist up, apart from a transparent veil she has pulled up under her breasts. Supposedly she was a sweetheart and/or model of Raphael. The work is called La Fornarina (image), which means the baker's daughter. The second work is Portrait of Woman Revealing her Breasts by Tintoretto [image] and it depicts a woman who is unbuttoning her dress for us and deliberately drawing it aside, exposes her left breast. We even see her right nipple half flattened against the opened dress. Unlike the Venus of Urbino, this woman looks away from us, what gives the canvas an air of strange excitement.
A perverse-looking painting is an amorous trio of an anonymous artist from an original by Titian (image) in the Casa Buonarroti. The painting shows a woman flanked by two men. The man to the left dominates the picture and look us straight in the eye, his left arm rests on the shoulder of the woman, his right hand slides under her dress to grasp her breast. The man in the upper right directs his vacant gaze over the shoulder of the woman to the left side of the canvas. The hand on her shoulder might just as well be his hand. The impossibility to interpret this work adds to its erotic luster.