Nu Couché, 1916 by Amedeo Modigliani

In the scale of erotic values, the nude from behind has a special place. Boucher used it to devastating effect, but the most famous image of the nude female back is doubtless Rokeby Venus by Diego Velazquez, where the eroticism is subsumed in the breathtaking beauty of the figure. However it is certainly not of such courtly painters, but rather of the Dutch school or of Courbet that one thinks in connection with this rather beefy nude. Although Modigliani's fluency and fundamental artistry produce a striking image, which is not without grace, when he decides, as here, to portray the whole figure his occasional weakness of drawing cannot be concealed. It is evident in the lower legs and especially the ankles and feet, and such weaknesses are mercilessly highlighted by comparison with Velazquez.

The apparent exaggeration of hips and thighs may be intended to heighten the erotic effect already conveyed by the pose. Though not so much, the face is personalized, the glance seemingly off-guard and warning off, which does nothing to diminish the sexuality implicit in the painting.