‘It took genius to chisel these buttocks’ the top 10 bottoms in art, chosen by our critic – The Guardian

10. Raphael: The Three Graces, 1504-5

Raphael died 500 years ago, it is said, after a night with his mistress left him in a weakened state. He had said that to paint perfect beauty he needed to see lots of different women. This geometrical arrangement of interlocking nudes revolving around a bottom reveals his addiction to the female body, from all angles. Chteau de Chantilly, France

The rich lawyer who commissioned this brooding, confrontational painting probably wanted to say something about himself. Homosexuality was clearly defined in Renaissance Italy and the myth of Ganymede, a shepherd boy carried off by the god Jupiter who had taken the shape of an eagle, was a symbol of it. Just to make it boldly clear this is about sex and violation, Mazza focuses attention on Ganymedes naked rear. National Gallery, London

An artist of supreme intelligence and irony, Velzquez takes apart the idyll of the nude in this gravely beautiful painting. Venus shows us her back and her curvaceous bottom, painted in tones of shimmering silk. But her backside is not all there is to her. In the mirror, her face is sad and uneasy. Shes not enjoying this. You realise she is not a god but a model, showing her rear for ever in a museum while wishing she was somewhere else. National Gallery, London

A man is slumped with his bare buttocks in the air in this stupefying triptych of the demons and perversities that besieged the early Christian hermit Anthony. But his humiliation doesnt end there. A woman has built her house under his sheltering form. He howls in misery but cant escape. You have to pass between his legs and under his bottom to enter the little cottage. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

Classical Greek sculpture is often summed up as nude. This has come to suggest something cold and formal: The Nude. The Motya Charioteers sensual behind refutes that. This captivating statue of a chariot-driver is clothed but in a garment so slinky and tight-fitting it draws attention to every contour of the youths body. It took genius to give this robe such delicacy in chiselled stone. And it brings us face-to-buttocks with the ancient Greek passion for male bodies. Museo Giuseppe Whitacker, Mozia, Sicily

When Donatello created the first free-standing nude statue since antiquity, he went out of his way to make it provocative. The artist wanted to challenge and defy the Church and its disdain for human beauty. Like the ancient creator of the Motya Charioteer, he uses clothes in this case boots and a hat to set off Davids physique. Its a sort of bronze lingerie. The real shock comes when you walk around and see the statues opulent, geometrical, smooth buttocks. They belong with the dome of Florence Cathedral as the founding curves of the Renaissance. Bargello museum, Florence

No one in Michelangelos lifetime doubted that his interest in the male nude was erotic. He said so himself, but insisted his adoration of male beauty was spiritual. The artist even claims as much in a love poem to a man. Homosexuality was a capital crime but, in this ecstatic monument to youth and courage, he rejoices in the heros rear. Picture how he lovingly carved those perfect buttocks and youll know what his contemporaries knew about him. Accademia, Florence

Philip II of Spain was in London, having just married Mary Tudor, when he took delivery of this ripely painted rear. As Venus begs her lover to stay, her rump is like a heavy cushion rooting her to the spot. Though she hugs and he pulls away, her bottom does not shift but appears glued to a heap of her discarded underwear. Titian expresses her desperation and determination to keep her man both in her shadowed face and in her immovable backside. Prado, Madrid

This is a Rococo rear. In 18th-century France, new ideas of reason and liberty were propounded by Enlightenment philosophers and discussed at such salons as that of the royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The art style of this optimistic age was sensually playful. Maybe Bouchers depiction of this young woman of Irish descent boldy displaying her posterior in a luxurious boudoir doesnt look that philosophical, but it is a libertarian manifesto of great eloquence. Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The artist adored young men with long hair, according to Vasaris 1550 Life of Leonardo. This is a different model of male beauty: powerful, stocky and exhibiting the best rear anyone has ever drawn. It is so expertly shaded that when you stand in front of the original drawing, it seems to be a solid, 3D pair of spheres blossoming in space. Leonardo is famous for his drawing of Vitruvian Man, holding out his limbs in a star shape to show the perfect human proportions. But this drawing is greater, stranger, with its faceless man whose centre of gravity is his rotund rear. Royal Collection, London

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'It took genius to chisel these buttocks' the top 10 bottoms in art, chosen by our critic - The Guardian

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