The 2011 Pirelli Calendar was unveiled in Moscow and was put together by designer Karl Lagerfeld with the pictures being taken in his studio in Paris.
He dressed models including actress Julianne Moore in gold laurel wreathes and gold body paint, while the four male models wore metallic gold codpieces.
The designer chose the theme of Greek mythology for the photo shoot because of his childhood love for sagas such as Homer’s the Iliad, he said.
“You know, when I started learning to read, the two first things that I read were the IIliad and Nibelungen,” he said, referring to German mythological sagas.
At the presentation, Lagerfeld even compared himself to the chronicler of Greek mythology, calling himself the “visual version of Homer.”
“I did it with my camera instead of with my pen,” he said.
The calendar has been published by Italian tyre company Pirelli since 1964, and has become a collector’s item for its erotic nudes snapped by photographers including Richard Avedon.
Lagerfeld stressed at the presentation that he steered away from any sleazy content and did not pressure models to do risque poses.
“They know they can trust me. I would never do something not absolutely correct,” he said. “There was no danger, no sleaziness.”
The models include Hollywood actress Moore, who poses as Hera, the queen of the gods, in a more modest shot than the other models that does not expose her breasts.
Dutch model Lara Stone, the wife of British comedian David Walliams, also took part, portraying the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite.
“Nobody believes in these gods anymore but the girls in the Pirelli calendar are the goddesses of today,” Lagerfeld said in a film at the presentation.
Models said they saw the calendar as an art project. “It’s less like a calendar and more like a form of art,” US model Erin Wasson told AFP.
“If you’re a huge fan of Karl Lagerfeld, you’re going to want this piece of work from him, as if he’d released a new art book,” Wasson said.
“I think for a model the best thing is to be in a book or in the Pirelli calendar,” said Italian model Bianca Balti.
“It’s the only nice calendar. In Italy there are so many vulgar calendars, like very sexy,” she said, gesturing a voluptous silhouette. “But Pirelli is just about art and beauty.”