The nude , as a form of visual art that focuses on the unclothed human figure, is an enduring tradition in Western art. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting , including allegorical and religious art , portraiture , or the decorative arts. From prehistory to the earliest civilizations, nude female figures are generally understood to be symbols of fertility. Japanese prints are one of the few non-western traditions that can be called nudes, but the activity of communal bathing in Japan is portrayed as just another social activity, without the significance placed upon the lack of clothing that exists in the West. Through each era, the nude has reflected changes in cultural attitudes regarding sexuality, gender roles, and social structure. The meaning of any image of the unclothed human body depends upon its being placed in a cultural context.
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