Reclining Nude, 1917 by Amedeo Modigliani

Modigliani is best known for the works created in Paris between 1915 and 1919 - portraits, in which a few telling details achieve a striking likeness, and nudes. His celebrated series of nude reclining women, begun in 1916, continues the tradition of depictions of Venuses from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, but with one significant difference: the eroticism of the earlier figures is always couched in a mythological or anecdotal context, whereas Modigliani dispenses with this pretext. Consequently, his women appear unabashedly frank and provocative. The two dozen or so figures in the series - never his mistresses or friends but always professional models - lie on a dark bed cover that accentuates the glow of their skin; they are seen close-up and usually from above. Their stylized bodies span the entire width of the canvas, and their hands and feet often remain outside the picture frame. Sometimes asleep, they most often face the viewer, as does this gracefully built model in one of the artist's most famous paintings of the series.

In this painting from 1917, the model's stylized, outlined body spans the entire canvas; viewed close-up and from above, her hands and feet disappear outside the frame as her creamy skin glows against the dark red bed or couch. Modigliani provocatively presents his Reclining Nude which highlighting the figure's eroticism.

By this picture, if no other of his nudes, Modigliani invites comparison with the grand tradition of the nude as exemplified by Giorgione, Titian, Diego Velazquez, Francisco Goya or Édouard Manet. It is perhaps with the frank come-hither sexuality of Goya's Naked Maja, with its discreet balance between naturalism and elegance, that comparison can best be made in this case.