Society takes peculiar measures when burdened with high taxes: Some throw tea into the harbor while others take to touring the town on horseback in the nude. The latter, of course, being the method employed by Lady Godiva, the 11th-century noblewomen whose husband would only relinquish the oppressive taxes he imposed on his people if his wife bared all on bareback. While the legitimacy of this fable has been questioned, it has nonetheless become the subject of countless paintings and sculptures, most notably, John Collier’s 19th-century rendition, ca. 1897. In Collier’s Pre-Raphaelite painting, a modest Lady Godiva sits atop a white horse, her brilliant red hair her only shield against possible voyeurs or a Peeping Tom — the town tailer who, as legend has it, took a peek at the clothes-less Lady Godiva.
In 2000, a fresh-faced Gisele Bündchen was photographed by Walter Chin for Vanity Fair’s January spotlight on the young model. Undoubtedly inspired by the legendary tale, Chin photographed Gisele nude and perched on a white horse for the story, “Unbridled Beauty.”
Lady Godiva by John Collier, ca. 1897. Housed at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
Gisele Bündchen by Walter Chin for Vanity Fair January, 2000.