The human body is the most common object of pictorial representation in western art. The goal of this study was to probe its evolutionary basis of visual art perception by investigating neural markers of gender-specific brain activity triggered by paintings of male and female images. Our results show significant activity in brain areas other than those recently associated with visual arts perception. Novel findings concern participant- general as well as gender specific brain activity. Although our participants were fully aware that they were viewing artworks, the inferior parietal lobule - known for its role in the perception of emotional body images (and the somatosensory cortex) which is related to touch - were selectively active for female body paintings in all participants. The most interesting finding as regards gender was that the sight of female bodies activates the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in males, an area known to subserve autonomic arousal. In contrast, in females the sight of the male body activated reward and control related parts of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This supports the notion that basic evolutionary processes operate when we view body images, also when they are paintings far removed from daily experience.