Botticelli (1445 - 1510), was an Italian artist from Florence, Italy, and was one of the first artists to include the nude outside of Christian themes at the start of the Southern Renaissance.
Though before we go into his art, we must first look at his patron, Lorenzo de'Medici. The Medici family were the owners of the largest and most prosperous bank in Europe, and Lorenzo's grandfather was also the first unofficial ruler of the Florentine Republic, which was still the ward of the Medici family during Lorenzo's life.
Needless to say the Medici's were an incredibly affluent family.
Lorenzo was a patron to many artists of the time, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and of course, Sandro Botticelli.
As well as Lorenzo's patronage to other artists, he commissioned Botticelli to paint La Primavera in 1482 which was one of the first paintings to feature classical themes including Venus, Cupid, the Three Graces, as well as other figures, all from ancient Roman Mythology. Botticelli also painted Pallas and the Centaur in the same year, presumably as a companion to Primavera.
Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" was a ground breaking piece, privately commissioned by Lorenzo in 1485. The birth of Venus paved the way for future artists to begin using mythology as a means of evading censors of the nude, even though it barely survived itself as Girolamo Savonarola, an extremist Dominican Priest and censor of the arts, had Florence looted for all lewd pictures, pagan books, immoral sculptures, and the works of immoral poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria in 1497. Unfortunately, several other paintings by Botticceli and other great artists were destroyed, but this didn't deter future artists.
The Birth of Venus was not an especially erotic nude by modern standards, mainly due to the painting's context, though even the simple portrayal of nudity would have been considered erotic during the early renaissance when such images were very rare indeed, and even rarer that it should be done with such beauty. One aspect of the painting I quite like is the nymph flying in from the right hand side with a sheet to cover the naked Venus' shameful nudity. This is one of the few elements of the painting that adds a bit of "naughty" eroticism.