I own about a dozen books dedicated to symbolism, and (surprisingly) only one addresses the symbolism of nakedness. I thought for sure that Barbara Walker's Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects would address the topic--or even The Book of Symbols by Taschen.

Alas, no.

Here's what J.E. Cirlot writes in his seminal book (translated from Spanish) A Dictionary of Symbols, under the topic "nudity":

The distinction between nuditas virtualis (purity and innocence) and nuditas criminalis (lasciviousness and vain exhibition) was already clearly established by Christians in the Middle Ages. Hence every nude must always have an ambivalent meaning and imply an ambiguous emotion: on the one hand, it lifts one's thoughts towards the pure peaks of mere physical beauty and (in a Platonic sense) towards the understanding of, and identification with, moral and spiritual beauty; but, on the other hand, it can never lose altogether its all too human ballast--its irrational attraction rooted in urges beyond the control of the conscious mind. Clearly, the human for revealed, whether in nature or in art, induces either one attitude or the other in the contemplator.

But the best description that I've come across on the subject of the symbolism of nakedness is from my friend and colleague, Craig Conley, in his Foreword to my upcoming book Naked Tarot: Sassy, Stripped Down Advice:

Eight Implications of Nakedness
1. Nakedness implies vulnerability. “The ability to tolerate a heightened awareness of vulnerability is crucial to resiliency and endurance.” 
2. Nakedness implies at-one-ment. “It can be about a sense of feeling at one with one’s environment.” That’s because nakedness “importantly removes all outward signs of rank, profession, and outward activity.  By doing so, “it focuses on the ground floor of human character—the sensory, sensual, and material nature of the human body and its engagement with its environment.”  
3. Nakedness implies timelessness. All solemn rites of nakedness take us back to that paradisaical Garden of ancient lore, because “paradise implies the absence of ‘clothing’—that is, of ‘wear and tear’ (an archetypal image of Time).” 
4. Nakedness implies the soul. In sacred writings, the world’s first couple was in a state of innocence and was naked but unashamed. 
5. Nakedness implies freedom. Unrestricted by clothes, one enjoys “a new sense of honesty, openness, and a carefree nature.”  
6. Nakedness implies plenitude. “It is a total presence offering itself for contemplation.” 
7. Nakedness implies sharing. “An emotional sharing of one’s deepest self, and doing so without any need to hide.”
8. Nakedness implies a full reveal. Indeed, “Nakedness is a promise of a truth that abandons all the covering and sheltering layers and reveals the essence behind all things.”
— Craig Conley, creator of the Tarot of Portmeirion and author of The Young Wizard's Hexopedia: A Guide to Magical Words and PhrasesMagic Words: A Dictionary plus dozens of other quirky, innovative titles

(To read the full Foreword, please visit NakedTarot.com.)

This morning, I made a book trailer of Naked Tarot--and I thought I'd share it here with you:

What are your views of nakedness, dear reader? What famous painting seems to embody your definition? (I've chosen Venus with a Mirror by Titian for this blog post). 

-- Janet