Breasts in art: a tender celebration

Revered, adored, feared – breasts are rarely just another body part in art. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month we take a celebratory and respectful look at boobs.
Gabrielle d'Estrées and one of her sisters (c. 1594). Artist unknown. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris. Public domain.

What an arresting and curious image this is, above, of one woman pinching the other’s nipple, looking knowingly at the unknown artist. Painted around 1594, Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses soeurs (Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters) is one of the most famous “breast paintings” of all time. According to Wikipedia, it depicts the mistress of King Henry IV of France, and her sister. What exactly are they doing? It would be completely anachronistic and cheeky to suggest they’re doing a monthly breast-check, but let’s pretend.

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