Erotic art is an excuse, in the form of sketches, paintings, sculptures, and other media, to show naked people, many of whom are depicted as engaging in "erotic" (a codeword for sexual) activities. Although some people try to distinguish between erotic art and pornography, no argument for such a distinction has ever been generally accepted, and most people agree that one person's erotic art is another person's pornography.
Some erotic art takes the pretext (i. e., excuse) of illustrating Biblical or mythological stories, which were full of erotic moments. One of the more famous examples of ancient erotic art (and there are a lot of examples from which to choose) is called Venus Rising From the Sea, which shows the goddess of love riding half a shell toward shore, surf rolling suggestively about her feet and ankles. Another Venus, Aphrodite, lacks arms and is believed to represent the ancient Greeks' fetish for amputees.
Both ancient Greeks and Romans adopted virtually any pretext for showing young women naked, but both cultures, for some reason, perhaps their rampant homosexuality, preferred to exhibit the nude male form. In an age in which youth wrestled naked for the amusement of others, even the flimsiest and most transparent pretexts for the display of male nudes was accepted without question. It seems ironic only to modern eyes, perhaps, that virtually every aspect of life required women, and more frequently, men, to be naked. Even Hercules completed his 12 labors in the nude.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, nude art went underground, disguising itself as a means of illustrating the truth of Biblical narratives such as the Creation of Eve, Madonna and Child, Sodom and Gomorrah, Susannah At Her Bath, and Samson and Delilah.
In modern times, erotic art has exploded, and is available everywhere, except the Middle East, which has a strict no-nudes-is-good-nudes policy. The only real differences between ancient and modern art are that photography dominates all other artistic media except perhaps computer-generated images and, where erotic art is concerned, no pretext of ''any'' kind is needed for even the most obscene displays of "erotic art," including that of such dubious artists as photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Jock Sturges.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has determined that it cannot define erotic art or, for that matter, pornography, but knows it when it encounters it. Therefore, it is up to local communities to determine for themselves what each of them considers to be obscene. It is a rare day, indeed, when any community in the United States finds any art of any kind to be obscene, although, occasionally, a work of art will be judged "tasteless" or a drawing, painting, photograph, or sculpture will make some voyeurs, uh, viewers feel "uncomfortable," although sex therapists agree that there is no need for such reactions and that "there's no accounting for taste."