From the goddesses immortalised in painting to the modern-day screen sirens - we take a look at the most hypnotic women of all time

What makes a woman seductive? If you ask Leonardo da Vinci, it's the mysterious, beguiling smile of a certain Mona Lisa. For Botticelli, it was tendrils of golden locks swirling around an angelic Venus in a clam shell, and for Mark Antony, Cleopatra's kohl-rimmed eyes, jet-black hair and sharp intellect proved to be so alluring, she was worth dying over. For as long as men have been creating masterpieces, there have been women who drive them to distraction. Some prove so compelling Shakespearean plays are written about them (Cleopatra), marriages are destroyed over them (Elizabeth Taylor) and thrones and titles are denounced in favour of their love (Wallis Simpson).

The 45 most seductive women of all time

And if there's one thing seductive women have in common, it's that there's not a whiff of wallflower about them. Indeed, they're the stuff of legend and folklore. From Lady Godiva riding nude on a horse, to Catherine the Great ruling Russia with one hand while taking lovers with the other, and Anaïs Nin scandalising society with her provocative writing - these ladies had power, magnetism and a singularity of character that even Hollywood couldn't manufacture. And even though we've included self-made bombshells like Marilyn Monroe and otherworldly beauties like Veruschka and Natalia Vodianova in this list, you can't argue that seduction boils down to just physical assets alone. 

Sure, Liz Taylor was famed for her violet-eyed stare, Angelina Jolie is adored for her sultry feline features and Carla Bruni's sphinx-like beauty catapulted her to First Lady (and face-of-Bulgari) status, but they also each possess a regal, self-contained presence that commands men to their knees. 

So in honour of the film stars, the rulers, the Hollywood bombshells and supermodels - here we salute the most entrancing, iconic and beguiling snake charmers of all time.

The 45 most seductive women of all time