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Serena Williams and Amy Schumer's stunning nude Pirelli portraits ooze power, not sex

Annie Leibovitz is breaking 50 years of tradition.

Amy Schumer IS ... a Pirelli calendar model.
Amy Schumer IS ... a Pirelli calendar model.

For more than 50 years, Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli has put out a calendar featuring models and supermodels in varying levels of undress. It is not available for purchase by the general public, making every new edition a hot collector's item. (Per the Cut, the list of Pirelli calendar recipients is unknown, and, "like an invitation to Hogwarts," the calendar "comes, without being summoned, to a chosen few.")

For the 2016 version, though, Pirelli decided to veer away from tradition — namely by highlighting the featured women for their accomplishments rather than for their ability to look sexy in latex, as the 2015 calendar did.

Gigi Hadid as 2015's November Pirelli model.

(Though to be fair to the 2015 calendar's models, wearing latex without getting stuck in it forever is very difficult, and an accomplishment in and of itself.)

Photographer Annie Leibovitz, whose 2016 calendar marks her second offering for Pirelli, said on Monday that the company told her it wanted to do something "different," and so she suggested simpler portraits of "women performance artists or women comedians, almost a take-off" of the company's typical calendar full of babes.

This isn't the first time Pirelli has broken from its own tradition. In 1987, British photographer Terence Donovan shot an edition entirely with black models — including a 16-year-old Naomi Campbell.

Leibovitz's picks for 2016 range from new pop culture fixtures like comedian Amy Schumer and director Ava DuVernay to musicians and authors such as Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, Rookie's Tavi Gevinson, and Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat. Further distancing Leibovitz's take from Pirelli's standard is that each black-and-white portrait will be accompanied by a brief description of the work its subject does.

While most of the women in the 2016 calendar appear fully clothed, Schumer and tennis goddess Serena Williams posed mostly nude. Schumer adopts a half-surprised look that, according to Leibowitz, was meant "ironically," as if she didn't understand that the 2016 calendar was supposed to be different from past issues. Schumer was enthusiastically game.

Williams, meanwhile, poses in a powerful, frozen stride.

Serena Williams in the 2016 Pirelli calendar.

The 2016 Pirelli calendar might not appeal to quite the same fan base as it has in the past, but there's no denying the power of these straightforward and celebratory portraits, which have absolutely zero interest in titillation.

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