Some have hailed it as “a new dawn for feminism”, while others have asked if this is the end of the Pirelli calendar as it’s been known for over 50 years – that is, a racy line-up of actresses and supermodels posing mostly in the nude.
Launched in 1964 as an annual giveaway for garages that sold Pirelli tyres, the calender, which is produced by the Pirelli's UK subsidiary and is sent to a select group of people, has evolved from the cheesy to the arty end of the erotica spectrum.
Over the years, the calendar has featured models including Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, to name but a few.
But the 13 women snapped by the American photographer Annie Leibovitz for the 2016 line-up include author and critic Fran Lebowitz; Yao Chen, a Chinese actress and UN goodwill ambassador and Kathleen Kennedy, a film producer.
The calendar, unveiled in London on Monday night, also includes tennis player Serena Williams, singer Patti Smith and Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon who is also an artist and musician.
The calendar features “13 women of outstanding professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment”, the company said in a statement.
Leibovitz also created the 2000 Pirelli calendar, which marked the first set of nude photos of her career.
“The 2000 calendar was an exercise in photographing nudes. It was a simple concept,” Leibovitz said in the Pirelli statment.
“For 2016, we did something completely different, but it is still simple. It is a classic set of black-and-white portraits made in the studio.”
Although nudity was not omitted entirely, the photo of Serena Williams' back is intended to reflect “her physical prowess through sport”.
Tennis player Serena Williams in the Pirelli 2016 calendar. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli
When ChemChina announced it was taking over Pirelli in March, CEO Marco Tronchetti reassured fans of the calendar that it would remain an annual feature of the company.
“It is the one thing Chinese, Italians and Russians can all agree on – we'll never give it up,” Tronchetti said at the time.
The company’s headquarters and “know-how” have remained in Italy.