Foreword By Clifford Thurlow

There has never been a time in history when man has not tried to capture the female form, surely the greatest of all creations.

Petter Hegre as a student at the Brooks Institute of Photography in California shot his first nudes on the beaches in Santa Barbara and was hooked. He spent a year in New York as an intern with Richard Avedon, before returning to his native Norway to set up a studio.

His vision, like painters and sculptors through time, was to use his camera to define the indefinable – as Leonardo da Vinci gave us studies of masculine perfection, his goal was to present the feminine ideal in the ultimate setting.

Now based in Paris and Barcelona, Hegre travels constantly in search of new locations. When he discovered the rolling hills of Tuscany, he set out to marry the subtle shades and shadows of the surroundings to twelve of the most beautiful models he could find.

Shot over a period of five years, in Tuscany Nudes Hegre shows more than 100 photographs that pay homage to the Renaissance, the flowing contours of his exquisitely proportioned female figures against a backdrop of elegant palaces, medieval structures and the silver-leafed olive groves that ornament the Tuscan landscape. Hegre's nudes are completely natural, no artifice or accessories, the combination a blend of the classic and contemporary – the realization of Hegre's youthful ambitions.

We are in these photographs at once both in the present and transported back to some mystical time and place. Hegre has worked alone, without assistants, using primarily natural light and the rich ingredients of Tuscany; wine, olive oil, grape. His props are the monuments that emerge out of the landscape, his models like carvings from ancient marble, each with a  stillness, a tranquillity that distils contemplative moments as if the camera is not present. As the great Helmut Newton once said, the challenge is to show something more of who that woman is. In these images that challenge has been met.

A good proportion of the photographs in Tuscany Nudes was created at Villa Mangiacane, the 16th century stately home built for the Machiavelli family. The South African owner Glynn Cohen has restored the house and gardens to their original splendor, the ancient statuary and mesmerising pools creating a feeling that in Tuscany, time is eternal, as are Petter Hegre's photographs in this memorable collection.

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