Is there any deeper political symbolism involved? Vladimir Putin famously loved to show his bare chest, atop a horse, next to a tiger rug, whenever the mood took him. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Eurosceptic hardliner, posed semi-naked in bed, defying what appears to be the form by looking extremely un-buff and proud of it.
Dr Luke Cooper, author of a book about the European rightwing, Authoritarian Contagion, says: “The question is, why is it that these leaders find often very masculine sexualised representation useful politically? The best answer I’ve heard is that masculinity is not just about power over women, it’s also about conveying your power over other men.”
What’s interesting is that these habitual naturists, and the hard-right in general, suddenly became very modest when it came to their Covid jab. Putin got vaccinated without photographers present; Hungary’s Viktor Orbán was dressed in a forgiving white T-shirt, modestly rolled up to reveal no more than a tiny bit of shoulder; Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, of course, has more important things to worry about, such as whether the vaccination could turn people into crocodiles.