What brought Professor Mary Beard to the Cathedral?

The well-known classicist and broadcaster was here last summer as part of filming her latest programme, The Shock of the Nude, a two-part series currently showing on the BBC.

The series shows Professor Beard giving a very personal take on the Nude in Western art and, in particular, exploring its troubling power to provoke ideas about gender, sex and moral transgression. One area she examines is nudity in religious art. In the first programme, for example, she looked at depictions of the Christian martyr Sebastian, who was tortured by arrows, and is now viewed as an erotic gay icon.

In next week’s programme she turns her attention to a nude she argues is rarely seen for what it is: the naked (or nearly naked) body of Jesus Christ. She is seen discussing the issue with the former Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor.

It was the quest for religious imagery that brought Professor Beard and her production team to Christ Church Cathedral last summer, early one Saturday morning before the tourists arrived. Her visit to Oxford also included joining a hen party – in order to participate in a life-drawing class of a naked male model.

To find out more, watch The Shock of the Nude on BBC Two on Monday 10 February.