50 Women Famous for being Naked

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 A Brief History

In 2014, in a total of four rounds, hackers released private pictures of celebrities, many containing nudity, supposedly taken from their iCloud accounts.  The most famous victim of the first round from August 31, was Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence.  Other victims from the September 20, September 26 and October 5 rounds included Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, Kim Kardashian, Hayden Panettiere, Mary-Kate Olson, Leelee Sobieski, Kate Upton and a finally a man, Hulk Hogan’s son Nick.  In these 2014 celebrity photo leaks, which are also known as the “Fappenings 1, 2, 3 and 4” or “Celebgate,” photos of at least 100 individuals of note were made public.  As outrageous as a major invasion of privacy this is, it reaffirms the public’s fascination with the lives of celebrities, and, of course, with female nudity. 

 Digging Deeper

In our four previous articles from our Naked Ladies Series, we have already listed numerous women famous for being naked or who, at one point in their lives, had famously been naked.  In this article, we again examine 10 more such ladies, bringing the total to at least 50.  This series on History and Headlines is carefully thought out and views famous episodes of nudity from a social, cultural or historical standpoint while maintaining respect for the women involved.  

Since 50 are too many to elaborate on in one article, for the other ladies please see, 1-1011-2021-30  and  31-40.

For the latest installment in this series,  the “Top 10 Black Women Famous for Being Naked,” compiled in honor of Black History Month, please click here.

1) Susanna (first mentioned in the 2nd century B.C.)

Susanna and the Elders by Guido Reni

The biblical story of Susanna is mentioned in the Book of Daniel.  While bathing naked in her garden, two old lechers see her and threaten to accuse her, a married woman, of meeting with a young man unless she agrees to have sex with them.  Susanna does not cave in to the blackmail and is arrested.  At her trial, her innocence is proven when her two accusers are questioned separately and give conflicting accounts of the supposed episode.  Like Bathsheba, the other woman from the Bible famous for being naked and involved in a sexual scandal,  Susanna is mostly depicted naked in artwork.  The oldest depiction is on an engraved rock known as the Lothair Crystal from the 9th century.  She has also been painted by world-renowned artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Artemisia Gentileschi, Pablo Picasso as well as many others.  Her story is also favorite of musicians; George Frideric Handel wrote an oratorio based on the incident, and the like-named American opera Susanna transplants the biblical story into modern times.  Writers have also been inspired by Susanna, and even Shakespeare mentioned her in The Merchant of Venice.

2) Margarita Luti  (approx. 1493 – unknown)

La Fornarina

Margarita Luti was the mistress and favorite model of the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael.  She is sometimes referred to as “La Fornarina” because she was a baker’s daughter.  This was also the name of a portrait of her, painted by Raphael, in which she appears nude from the waist up.  What makes her particularly significant is the fact that Raphael was one of the first artists to draw female figures from female models rather than teenage boys, and Luti was his main model.  The love story of Raphael and Margarita Luti has fascinated many generations and has been addressed by art historians and novelists and playwrights alike, from Honoré de Balzac to Charles Baudelaire to Lord Byron.  Even more modern artists such as Joseph Mallord William Turner, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Pablo Picasso have attempted to capture the essence of their relationship in paintings.  Their passion has also been the subject of films and opera, and Margarita Luti has even had a rose named after her, known simply as “Fornarina.”

3) Helena Fourment (1614 – 1673)

Peter Paul Rubens – Het Pelsken 1636-1638

Helena Fourment, the second wife and sometime model of Peter Paul Rubens, was also somewhat corpulent and became the inspiration for a style of painting that would become known as “Rubenesque,” the reverent depiction of plus-sized women.  Although Rubens always had had a “thing” for heavier-set women, he loved his wife’s fleshier figure especially and immortalized her, or rather her body, in many paintings and portraits.  He painted her as Venus and Bathsheba and in some pastoral settings, but his most personal and intimate portrait of her is one where she leaves her bath, wrapped only in a strategically placed fur, where she stares coyly and confidently at the artist, her ample bosom too large to hide.  This portrait probably best caught the spirit of the relationship between artist and wife/model/muse. 

4) Hildegard Knef (1925 – 2002)

Poster for the 1951 film The Sinner

During World War II, Hildegard Knef was a young aspiring German actress who had an affair with a Nazi.  After the war, she appeared in East German movies, her most notorious role being that of Marina in The Sinner (Die Sünderin).  A brief nude scene was a first in German film history and created a scandal.  Protests ensued, and the Catholic Church in particular took issue with the film because it addressed such taboo topics as prostitution and suicide.  Attempts were even made by politicians to censor and ban it.  The courts, however, decided that the film was a work of art and as such would be protected.  The reaction to the film surprised Knef, especially after all of the real horrors of the recent war.   As for her career, her association with a Nazi and the negative reputation she acquired for appearing nude in The Sinner, prevented Knef from achieving stardom in the United States.  Despite this disappointment, she still managed though to have a successful second career as a singer in the 1960s and 70s and sold more than 3 million records in Germany.

5) Kathy Bates (1948 – )

Despite there being so many conventionally beautiful and thin women modelling nude, it is usually the unconventional nudes ones who garner the most attention.  Case in point – Kathy Bates.  No nude scene generated as much interest with so few willing to admit their fascination but rather their shock and repulsion than the scene in the 2002 movie About Schmidt in which Kathy Bates’s character climbs into the hot tub with Jack Nicholson’s character.  The look on Jack’s face just about mimics the expression the audience members made when viewing it in theaters though he did not gasp like they did.   Unfortunately, this scene has also made lists of the most disgusting scenes in American cinema, which is simply cruel and unfair since the character is a likeable, real woman whose only “flaws” are that she is middle aged and heavy set.  Kudos to Kathy Bates for having the courage and self confidence to act a scene that critical and immature minds are not able to appreciate.  The Oscar Committee liked it well enough though and gave her her third Academy Award nomination for an actress in a supporting role.

6) Fiona Butler (“Tennis Girl”) (1958 – )

In 1976, 18-year-old Fiona Butler was photographed by her boyfriend, British photographer Martin Elliot, on a tennis court where it appears that she had been practicing tennis.  The eye catcher is that Fiona does not seem to be wearing any underwear while she adjusts her outfit and scratches her butt cheek, and the photographer just happens to capture this exact moment.  Contrary to this common perception though, the photograph was actually staged.  Even the tennis balls were chewed and “borrowed” from a dog.  The image first ended up in a calendar but then it was distributed as a poster of which 2 million copies ended up being sold at the time, with millions more being sold worldwide in the years since!  After Farrah Fawcett’s iconic pose, it is the second best-selling poster of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  As famous as the often-parodied photograph is, Fiona never got any royalties from it though her boyfriend got an estimated £250,000 in royalty payments.  In 2014, the dress and racquet were put up for auction on the day of the finals in the Wimbledon Championships in Women’s Singles.

7) Pamela Anderson (1967 – )

Anderson aboard USS Ronald Reagan, September 2004

Before there was Kim Kardashian, before there was Paris Hilton, there was Pamela Anderson who gave the world its first famously leaked celebrity sex tape.  In 1997, a private tape showing Pam and her new husband Tommy Lee engaging in sex during their honeymoon hit the internet and went viral.  Tommy Lee claimed the tape had been stolen while work was being done on their home.  Both he and Pam attempted to stop the distribution of the video, but ended up entering a deal instead.  This was the first example of a sex tape increasing the fame and lining the pockets of celebrities.  Nowadays it has become a way for stars to get added publicity while looking innocent at the same time. 

8) Paulina Rubio (1971 – )

Mexican singer and actress Paulina Rubio created a stir when in 2007 she appeared on the cover a magazine wearing only the Mexican flag.  By doing so, she had violated a Mexican law that specifies that the national flag should be handled with care and respect.  For the full image, click here.  Paulina ended up being fined the equivalent of $4,000.  On a similar note, on September 16, 2014, Mexico’s Independence Day of all days, Miley Cyrus showed characteristically bad judgment by tastelessly allowing herself to be whipped onstage with the Mexican flag while wearing a giant prosthetic butt and twerking during a concert in Monterrey.  As of the time of this article’s publication, Miley has not been punished.  (For those of you who do not know what twerking is, it is a vulgar dance where you bend over, squat and stick your behind out as far as you can while you thrust your hips back and forth in a sexually provocative manner, preferably against someone else). 

9) Tang Jiali (1976 – )

The history of nudity in China is short, so short in fact that one quick read of the History and Headlines article “Until Recently, There were No Naked Women in China” should fill in most of the blanks.  As promised in that article, the story of one woman was saved for this list.  Tang Jiali is a Chinese dancer and model who made a name for herself in China in 2003 by becoming the first woman to have books with nude artistic photographs of herself published after the national ban on the distribution and sale of such photographs was lifted.  As is the case with most forerunners and pioneers, she suffered heavy public scrutiny and disappointed her family who felt her actions were shameful, sinful and bad.  This backlash left her briefly considering suicide.

10) Jennifer Lawrence (1990 – )

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past

Jennifer Lawrence is currently the hottest actress in Hollywood.  Despite her young age, she is no longer an “up and comer” because she has already won the highest recognition a movie actor or actress can receive, that being an Academy Award.  Like Julius Caesar, she came, she saw, and she conquered.  She has been described as that rare, young actress who not only plays but is grown up.  For all her obvious intelligence and experience, her youth and inexperience still managed to catch up with her however.  Had she been just a little bit older she might have remembered the example of radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger and learned that if you do not want to risk certain nude photographs of yourself ending up in the wrong hands, then do not let any be taken of you.  Instead nude pictures of her she herself had taken and sent from her iCloud account to her long-distance boyfriend were leaked online by a hacker who had cracked her account.  She viewed this invasion of privacy as a sexual violation and said that those online viewers who actually looked at the pictures should be ashamed of themselves and went so far as to just about calling them sex offenders too.  In the eyes of the author, this laying of the blame on the viewers as well was too much as people are always interested in naked women, and Jennifer, a beautiful young woman of legal age, has nothing to hide.  Not much on the internet can be undone, so be proud, handle yourself with dignity, and perhaps some young girls will learn the lesson you learned too late.

For the other articles in the History and Headlines series on naked ladies, please click here.

Question for students (and subscribers): Should female nudity be a controversial topic?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

ABC.  Nude Artistic Photographs of Tang Jiali (Chinese Edition).  People’s Literature Publishing House, 2011.


About Author

Beth Michaels

Beth Michaels attended a private college in Northeast Ohio from which she earned a Bachelor’s degree in German with a minor in French. From there she moved to Germany where she attended the University of Heidelberg for two years. Additional schooling earned her certifications as a foreign language correspondent and state-certified translator. In her professional career, Beth worked for a leading German manufacturer of ophthalmological medical instruments and devices as a quality representative, regulatory affairs manager and internal auditor.