How a Work of Art Becomes Obscene

Chris Ofili (b. 1968), Holy Virgin Mary, 1996.

Judith Leyster (1609-1660), The Rejected Offer or The Proposition, 1631.

From The New Yorker, 6/29/09: "The show’s brochure, written by art historian Frima Fox Hofrichter, tells us that 'to sew' was, as it remains, Dutch slang for sex, giving an unmistakable spin to an offer of money for a woman’s sewing. In Leyster’s work, social and sexual anxieties tingle with fire-alarm immediacy."

, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770), Woman with a Parrot, 1760-61

Although Tiepolo did from time to time produce excellent portraits, this luminous painting may not be a portrait at all. It is, however, almost a symbol of eighteenth-century grace. [Source]

Woman with a Parrot by Courbet (1819-1877), 1866.

When this painting was shown in the Salon of 1866, critics censured Courbet's "lack of taste" as well as his model's "ungainly" pose and "disheveled hair." Clearly, Courbet's woman was perceived as provocative. The picture, however, was admired by contemporary artists: Cézanne seems to have carried a small photograph of it in his wallet, and in 1866 Manet began his version of the subject, Young Lady in 1866 (Woman with a Parrot) (89.21.3). [MMA]

Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Woman with a Parrot, 1866

The theme of a woman and her parrot-confidante has literary and pictorial antecedents. But this picture, for which Victorine Meurent posed in 1866, was probably Manet's answer to Courbet's Woman with a Parrot (29.100.57), exhibited in the Salon of 1866. When Manet's picture was shown in the Salon of 1868, one critic wrote that "he has borrowed the parrot from his friend Courbet and placed it on a perch next to a young woman in a pink peignoir. These realists are capable of anything!" Most critics ignored the subject, however, in favor of ridiculing Manet's "present vice … a sort of pantheism in which the head is esteemed no more than a slipper." The picture was exhibited on three occasions during Manet's lifetime. [MMA]

Gil Elvgren's (1914-1980) take on a woman with a parrot, c. 1950.

Olympia, Édouard Manet (1832-1883), 1863.

Venus of Urbino, Titian, 1538.

Banned on Facebook

From the source:
Apparently posting a picture of the famous painting "The Origin of the World" by Gustave Courbet's (1886) will get you kicked off of Facebook. While the painting hangs in Paris' Musee d'Orsay one of the most well known museums in the world, it has been the cause of at least three Facebook accounts being shut down. One of these individuals is suing Facebook over the matter. And others have tried to post the image as a form of solidarity/protest, and they too have had their accounts deleted. What are your thoughts on this type of censorship?

In an attempt to not have my own Facebook accounts closed, I will be using the same image Gawker used to report on this news.

To read more:!5791706/the-famous-vagina-painting-that-facebook-doesnt-want-you-to-see

Origin of the World, Courbet for a private collector, 1866.

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989), Man in Polyester Suit, 1980.

Minor White (1908-1976), Nude, Portland, Oregon, 1940

Sally Mann (b.1951), Damaged Child, 1984.

...In fact, what Mann was seeking, with the willing participation of her young subjects, was an honest record of childhood and growing up. But what she recognized from the start of her project was that nothing about childhood is uncomplicated. It’s not the knowing but the uncertainty, on the part of children and adults, that most distinctively marks this territory. The first picture Mann took in the series, “Damaged Child,” shows a little girl who looks beaten, when in fact she has been badly bitten by gnats. But the viewer, with only the visual evidence on display, is left to wonder exactly what is going on. For all its absurd clarity—and every picture in the sequence is a marvel of composition and printing—this photograph nails our inability to ever know the whole truth about, well, about anything, but certainly about childhood first and last...[Source]

Renee Cox (b. 1960), Yo Mama's Pieta, c. 1996.

Click here, enter, and go to "Galleries" then "Flippin'" It for similar work.

[Excerpt from a NYT interview in 2001:]>br>You say your work isn't about sex. Why isn't it? You are there, naked, and it's sexual; it's not like Botticelli's Venus.

When I do these images, the sexual element isn't there for me at all. It's about the body and the form. It's not like I have an image there with me and a dildo flying around. People keep trying to put it in this context. The thing is, here in America, it still is a very puritanical state of mind going on and when people of Giuliani's ilk see something that is nude, somehow they react that it's obscene. I say you should refer back to Greek antiquities. The Met is full of naked Greek statues and no one is upset about that. [Go to the source for the rest of this interview by Karen Croft at]

Pietà, Michelangelo, 1499.

Joel-Peter Witkin (b. 1939), Obscure Saint, 1990s

Donatello (1386-1466), David, 1408-1409.

The Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), c. 440 BCE by Polykleitos (active 450-420 BCE), Marble, Museo Archaeologico, Naples.
This sculpture is one of the best known of the ancient classical era and celebrated as an early example of Greek classical contrapposto (Italian for counterpoise).

Diskobolos (Discus Thrower), c. 460-450 BCE, Marble, Museo delle Terme, Rome. Original bronze attributed to Myron. This is a Roman copy.

Head of a Dead Man, 1990.

Sandro "Botticelli" (1455-1510), Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, c. 1488.

Witkin, Portrait as a Vanité, New Mexico, 1994.

Alexandros of Antioch, Venus de Milo, c. 130-100 BCE

Andres Serrano (b. 1950), Piss Christ, 1987.

This piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art's "Awards in the Visual Arts" competition. The award is sponsored in part by the United States National Endowment for the Arts, which offers support and funding for projects that exhibit artistic excellence.

Serrano, Piss Discus, 1988 (from The Fluids Series).

Marcus Harvey (in front of painting), (b. 1963), Myra, 1995.

Marcus Harvey, Myra, 1995.