The 9 Best Bums In London's Museums And Galleries

By Londonist Last edited 19 months ago
The 9 Best Bums In London's Museums And Galleries

Let's face it, everybody likes a good bottom. From Kim Kardashian breaking the internet with those pictures, to Olly Murs winning Male Rear of the Year, a nice bum can get you far these days.

But it isn't just modern celebrity culture that's obsessed with the derrière; artists throughout history have often seen the merits of a worthy behind, making it the focal point of many a painting and sculpture. We've scoured London's museums and galleries to bring you the finest buttocks, asking artists and curators to nominate their favourites along the way. Every one of these gorgeous bottoms is currently on display in London, so you can cheek check them out for yourself.

1. Nymphs at a Fountain, Peter Lely

This hedonistic post-coital scene is one of the sexiest pictures we’ve ever seen. Find it on display at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Curator Xavier Bray says "The curvaceous female nude, lying with her back to the viewer is the focal point of this vision of Arcadian pleasure, a scene which carries erotic overtones as the viewer is invited to gaze voyeuristically upon the sleeping nymphs."

Nymphs at a Fountain, Sir Peter Lely, Early 1650s © Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

2. David, Michelangelo

Artist Liz Charsley-Jory is a big fan of the world-famous marble nude: "If ever there was a gigantic stone bottom that deserved recognition it is this one. The embodiment of youthful perfection standing languidly butt naked after defeating the evil giant Goliath, his tight buns mesmerising in the Florentine sun." The good news is you don’t have to go all the way to Italy to see this iconic bottom for yourself as there is a recently conserved 19th-century cast of the original on display at the V&A.

David by Michelangelo made 1501 - 4. Plaster Cast 1857 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

3. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Edouard Manet

The Courtauld Gallery picked out a bottom from their collection that is hard to spot at first. The Parisian waitress staring out of Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is fully clothed, standing in front of a mirror that shows us a rowdy drunken party. She is beautiful but her bored expression is at odds with the buzzing atmosphere of the reflected scene. Glance to your right and you’ll see her ample curves reflected back at you, enhanced by a corset under her blue velvet skirt. She leans over the bar talking to a man, the implication of the scene being that she is a prostitute. As the viewer this puts us in an awkward position: casually checking out her booty, might we be her next customer?

Edouard Manet A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-2 Courtesy of The Courtauld Gallery

4. The Judgement of Paris, Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens is the undisputed master of the fleshy nude as highlighted in this choice from the National Gallery. Youthful Paris has a difficult choice to make; which out of the three goddesses Juno, Venus or Minerva to give a golden apple — a decision which will shadow him for life and ultimately lead to the destruction of Troy. Tempted by her promise to give him the beautiful Helen of Troy as his wife, Paris chooses Venus, the Goddess of love and this image depicts the very moment he offers her the prize. In this version the scene is presented like a beauty contest; their buxom milk-white flesh on abundant display. These larger women are confidently in command of their sexuality.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgement of Paris, probably 1632-5: © The National Gallery, London

5. Marble statue of a discus-thrower (Discobolus), Myron

Michael Savage, aka The Grumpy Art Historian, visited the British Museum’s current exhibition Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art and chose Discobolus, an ancient Greek sculpture of one buff athlete showing off his body. Says Savage: "This tense bottom is thousands of years old, but it's a copy of an even older sculpture from Athens in the 5th century BC. The ancient Greek perspective on gender and sex was very different from those today. Today women’s bottoms get all the attention but in ancient Greece there was a cultish obsession with male bodily perfection. They even gave us the English word for 'beautiful buttocks': callipygian. No bottom is great in isolation, we have to appreciate it in context. This is an athlete in peak physical condition, the stiff muscles and tensed feet set off the great curves: the arc of the arms, the arched back and of course those perfect buttocks."

Discobolus. Marble statue of a discus-thrower (discobolus) by Myron. Roman copy of a bronze Greek original of the 5th century BC. Height 173cm x width 100cm. © The Trustees of the British Museum

6. Lely's Venus, Lely

Londonist also visited the British Museum's exhibition and noticed this statue of Aphrodite, goddess of love). This piece depicts the powerful figure surprised by the viewer in a private moment of bathing, we voyeurs intruding upon her solitude. Walking around the statue we follow the line of her right hand crossed over her left shoulder, only to be confronted by her terrifying stare' what will she do to us for interrupting her? Death is the likeliest option… we have messed with a dangerous woman.

Credit: Lely's Venus full view of face: Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath, also known as Lely’s Venus. Roman copy of a Greek original, 2nd century AD. Height 120cm. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015. Photo by Doug in the Londonist Flickr pool.

7. After the Bath, Woman drying herself, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

19th-century impressionist Edgar Degas is one of many artists to be inspired by the Aphrodite motif. In this second choice from the National Gallery he depicts a woman alone drying herself after her bath. The broad flickering brush strokes in warm pastel colours create a sensuous scene as she vigorously towels her body.  Degas invites us to peek at this unknown woman as if through a keyhole.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman drying herself, about 1890-5: © The National Gallery, London

8. The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche

Artist Samuel Fouracre recommends The Wallace Collection for entire rooms full of peaches and cream nudes: ‘There is a tiny little painting, small but potent, amongst the huge piles of candy floss at the Wallace. The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche in which Saint Anthony stands, surrounded by an alluring range of fecund beauties with their arms flung around him, all beseeching the poor hermit with a palpable sense of urgency, to make love to them, please! Yet St Anthony, his eyes turned skywards, arms held aloft, either implores his God… 'Keep me strong against these temptations', or if seen in the right light, appears to be saying in resignation 'ahhh, what are you gonna do?'"

Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche (1797 - 1856) The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1832 © The Wallace Collection

9. The Rising of the Sun, and The Setting of the Sun, Francois Boucher

For bottoms in the art world The Wallace Collection is tops. The place is so full of naked flesh that art historian Marie-Anne Mancio couldn’t decide, and opted for two pieces by the 18th century painter Francois Boucher: "No-one understood the erotic power of a pink-tinged bottom like master colourist Francois Boucher. In these tapestry designs commissioned by official mistress, Madame de Pompadour, for Louis XV's bedroom at Bellevue, the nymph's wet, white flesh lies tantalisingly within reach while a triton clasps his seashell with displaced vigour..."

Francois Boucher, The Rising of the Sun, 1753 © The Wallace Collection


By Lettie McKie

Last Updated 12 January 2016

Laura Porter

I do feel surprised you missed a rather large bottom at Apsley House where there's a huge statue of Napoleon at the foot of the stairs. Always makes me snigger.

Phil Ayres

Surely the Three Graces at the V&A
http://www.vam.ac.uk/__data/as...

sylvia bellini

Jacob Epstein's Jacob and the Angel at Tate Britain - Angel's posterior. Just saying.

juno

No doubt the Degas woman has a wonderful bum, but as you can't see it, how can it possibly be in the list?

Anon Y. Mous

Maybe she's straining to hear the man's drink order over the loud crowd. Quit projecting.

Sabine

Donatello's David is always worth a look http://www.wga.hu/art/d/donate...

D Velazquez

I'm surprised the Rockeby Venus didn't get a mention. I travel from the Antipodes to pay homage. What a bum, and such a colourful history.

Tyrwhitt Michael

How can this be the top ten? There are only nine on the list?