The Disrobing of Aphrodite: Brigitte Bardot in Le Mépris

Oisin Keohane (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    This article examines a number of philosophical concepts that are at stake in the visual culture of the nude. It particularly focuses on Aphrodite’s appearance, or rather, what I call her exposed concealment, in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 Le Mépris. A film, I argue, which is not only concerned with Aphrodite and the figure of the female nude via Brigitte Bardot, but which also explores the very idea of the sex goddess in cinema. In the first section I introduce arguments from T.J. Clark about the changing status of the nude in nineteenth-century France. In the second section, having introduced Kenneth Clark’s work on Aphrodite, I outline Michael Williams’ work on the archaeology of divine stardom and discuss my disagreement with the way Ginette Vincendeau and Colin Gardner interpret Bardot in the film. In the longest section, the third, I examine several shots in Le Mépris in conversation with Stanley Cavell and argue that the nude scenes both invoke and rework the pictorial language of nudity found in the history of painting and sculpture, as well as Bardot’s film back catalogue, and I conclude by suggesting the film provides an indirect critique of what Hegel says about female nudity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)171-195
    Number of pages25
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


    • Bardot
    • Aphrodite
    • nude
    • Godard
    • Cavell
    • Hegel


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