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Not every nude in art is sexual, but painting and sculpture have always been opportunities for sexual attraction to be explicitly portrayed. For example, Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods, took many forms to seduce goddesses and earthly mortals, commonly depicted in Old Master paintings. The Judgement of Paris and The Three Graces are other opportunities to depict idealised female nudes, a tradition that continued into the nineteenth century.

Seventeenth-century Dutch art includes numerous scenes of men paying women and innkeepers for services rendered. The secret lives of sex workers were later explored by Toulouse-Lautrec in the late nineteenth century and by Sickert in the early twentieth century. But explicit erotic paintings, meant for private enjoyment, are understandably rare in public collections.