Activists demand Met remove painting of girl “in suggestive pose”, museum refuses

Here’s a painting on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: “Thérèse Dreaming” (1938) by the Polish-French artist Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, also known as “Balthus.” It shows a young girl in reverie (and there’s a cat). In today’s climate, though, the fact that her legs are splayed and her underwear is showing was sufficient to trigger the Pecksniffs. It was worsened by the fact that Balthus frequently produced art like this; as Wikipedia notes, “He is known for his erotically-charged images of pubescent girls, but also for the refined, dreamlike quality of his imagery.”

According to yesterday’s New York Times, Mia Merrill, a New York woman, has called for the removal of the painting, and created a petition to that end that has gathered over 8,000 signatures. Here’s her announcement:

The petition is here, and includes these words (Merrill’s emphasis):

When I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past weekend, I was shocked to see a painting that depicts a young girl in a sexually suggestive pose. Balthus’ painting, Thérèse Dreaming, is an evocative portrait of a prepubescent girl relaxing on a chair with her legs up and underwear exposed.

It is disturbing that the Met would proudly display such an image. They are a renowned institution and one of the largest, most respected art museums in the United States. The artist of this painting, Balthus, had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls, and it can be strongly argued that this painting romanticizes the sexualization of a child.

In 2013, the Met hosted the exhibit “Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations,” which included more of Balthus’ overtly pedophilic work. As the Guardian wrote: “The Met, not imprudently, has put a plaque at the start of the show that reads: “Some of the paintings in this exhibition may be disturbing to some visitors.” If The Met had the wherewithal to reference the disturbing nature of Balthus for this exhibit, they understand the implications of displaying his art as a part of their permanent collection.

Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses without providing any type of clarification, The Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children.

I am not asking for this painting to be censored, destroyed or never seen again. I am asking The Met to seriously consider the implications of hanging particular pieces of art on their walls, and to be more conscientious in how they contextualize those pieces to the masses. This can be accomplished by either removing the piece from that particular gallery, or providing more context in the painting’s description. For example, a line as brief as, “some viewers find this piece offensive or disturbing, given Balthus’ artistic infatuation with young girls.”‘

In an interview with the Times, she insisted again that she was not asking for censorship, even though her petition offered removal of the painting as an alternative:

Ms. Merrill also insisted she was not trying to encourage censorship. “But the blatant objectification and sexualization of a child is where I draw the line,” Ms. Merrill said by phone on Friday.

 But of course she’s encouraging censorship: removal of paintings that she sees as objectifying and sexualizing children. (She is advocating removal: look at the title of her petition.) In other words, she sees this painting as child pornography, presumably encouraging child sexual abuse.  Fortunately, the Met refused to cave; the Museum’s chief communications officer, Ken Weine, said this:

“Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression.”

Good for them; would that every Museum would respond this way!

Now I can barely see the usefulness of having a sign like the one the petition mentions for a collection or exhibit of such paintings, but how do you do that for a single painting? Answer: you don’t. The image may be sexualized, but it’s not child porn, and were we to ban it, we’d have to ban Lolita by Nabokov, or at least put a big trigger warning on the cover. We’d have to ban all paintings of Leda and the Swan, which depict the rape of Leda by Zeus in cygnid form; here’s one after Michelangelo:

(from Wikipedia): Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy after a lost painting by Michelangelo (National Gallery, London)

Leda and the Swan paintings could encourage not only child abuse but bestiality. And of course there are numerous paintings of rape in the canon, including many versions of the mythological Roman story of the Rape of the Sabine Women. (Here “rape” in Latin was “raptio,” which could be translated as “abduction”, but the paintings are salacious and there’s no doubt about what was going to happen to the abducted women.) Here’s a version by Rubens:

I’m not quite sure why people aren’t up in arms about paintings like that.

Virginia photographer Sally Mann, who has exhibited and published pictures of her nude children, has been subject to similar opprobrium, including threats of arrest. She takes revealing pictures of herself and her family, as well as beautiful pictures of her environment (see here for a sample).  She’s one of my favorite modern photographers. The photographs are taken and shown with the children’s consent, though one could argue whether a very young child’s consent is meaningful. I’ve never found them sexual at all, though I suppose pedophiles could. But the question to ask is whether Mann, or Balthus, has caused a net harm to society (including the children) by publishing nudes of children. They’re not fueling an industry that runs on sexual exploitation of children, as does true child porn, and their images are lovely. Do they cause a net harm or net benefit to society? I argue the latter; see Mann’s photographs for examples.

If Mann or Balthus creates art by reproducing or painting child nudes, and that’s wrong, then it’s also wrong to let anybody read Lolita—or at least to read it without a preliminary trigger warning. It’s also wrong to show pictures of women being abducted or sexually abused by birds.

As the Left grows more authoritarian, society grows more puritanical. I’m willing to bet, without knowing, that Mia Merrill considers herself a progressive.

131 Comments

  1. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Read that yesterday and was flabbergasted. I have been accused of showing pornographic illustrations in my organ system anatomy lectures when covering the reproductive system. Pornography and sexual perversion is found in the puny brain of the observer, not the presenter (artist, lecturer).

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      May I ask, how did you respond to the accusation?

      • Craw
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Don’t let John Oliver know. “You’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t happen.”

        • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

          Oh no. Not Oliver. I’m not sure I want to know.

          *sigh* I guess I’m going to have to do some googlating.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        I shared the evaluation comment (anonymous) with the entire class and several dozen students came to my defense. I have had worse criticism from the creationists in my classes; probably the same subset of people.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      They would have definitely reacted to the pictures I used to show of advanced STD’s in my old Human Biology class.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        It is flabbergasting. How in the world would one teach about STDs in a human biology class without depicting naughty bits?

        • Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          You can. But it would be a lot more boring to most students.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 7, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          Huh?
          Apart from the (moderate) propensity of syphilis to produce a chancre near the point of infection, most of the rest of the symptoms I can think of aren’t particularly associated with the sex organs.
          Oh, tell a lie – they didn’t consider herpes to even be an STD when I was at school. Or HPV. And I’ve never seen anything that put me in mind of them.

  2. TJR
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    What about Michelangelo’s David?

    Its just blatant porn, tear it down right now!

    • AC Harper
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      David is just a male and therefore cannot be sexually exploited.
      {satire}

    • rickflick
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Or, just a strip of black duct tape. One large roll would get you through the Roman museums right up to the Vatican. 😎

  3. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    A pervert several years ago took a hammer to David’s penis

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I think it was the toe.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I find much more perverse the morning TV news programs where the hosts now sit on a sofa instead of behind a news desk or table. The men may sit comfortably but the women who mostly wear short dresses must sit with legs tightly crossed. Very uncomfortable, not good for the spine. Why not wear pant-suits and be comfortable? This is much worse than artistic depiction of a very innocent young woman who is sleeping (of course posed) comfortably.

        Google Today Show Host Images and you will see what I mean.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          I think that was Roger Ailes idea.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          ‘Swhy Roger Ailes had glass tabletops installed on the Fox News set. Someone needs to toss those gals on “Outnumbered” some towels, let the poor things cover up a bit. 🙂

      • boggy
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris was damaged when someone broke off the genitals of Jacob Epstein’s sculpture.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 7, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          I recently heard of a different Oscar Wilde statue in Dublin. (That’s a horrible site – loads like a corpulent pig avoiding a flying lesson. More scripts than a politician trying to convince people of his spontaneity. Try this one. )
          The colours are not painted on. To quote the artist’s diagnosis,

          Wilde’s shiny green jacket is made from nephrite jade, sourced in Canada.The pink collar is made of a rare semi precious stone called thulite, brought here from central Norway.Wilde’s head and hands are carved from Guatemalan jade.His trousers are made from larvikite – a crystalline stone from Norway, and his shiny shoes are black granite.

          Larvikite is beautiful – probably the most popular building stone for fronting shops in Europe. Canadians may recognise the iridescent lustre of it’s large plagioclase crystals and cry “Labradorite!” – but that’s the mineral, not the rock.
          I’m off to find where thulite outcrops, then me and my hammer are going for a walk.
          Yeuch – lots of crystal healing types of New Age woolly-mindedness clustered around thulite. Not surprising – is pretty – but here’s something respectable. And as for where the sound of hammering will shortly commence, here.

  4. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    well-presented. We had occasion (years ago) to stand toe to toe with a censorship campaign and it was exhausting… and successful. The key id more discussion & debate. thanks for your post!

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      oops for the typo… or is it a slip?

  5. Craw
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Good for the Met. A good response too.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I thought we got past this jejune nonsense a lifetime ago when the ban was lifted on Nabokov’s Lolita.

    The battle against puritanical intermeddlers never ends, I suppose.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      One Penguin Books [UK] edition [1995?] of Lolita has that very Balthus’ painting as the front cover.

      HERE’S THE LINK TO a confused 2014 article in New Republic regarding the many different “creepy” Lolita book covers. Includes a few pics including the Balthus.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Just noticed it’s not the same Balthus – it’s another Balthus in the same pose & colours where the girl looks out at the viewer. Inc obligatory cat.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I noticed; the caption describes it as a “reappropriation” of the Balthus painting. Thanks for the link.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      That one has a d*g in it. So it’s probably safe.

  7. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    While I agree with the professor on most controversies of this nature, he is kind of missing the argument on this one. The petition clearly states that it is seeking removal from that specific gallery, not removal in general. The evidence for this is that the petition mentions the 2013 exhibit and implies that the Met did the right thing by including the warning plaque.

    It is clear that the petition contemplates the Met keeping the painting on display while providing further context.

    As to the aside about Lolita, I would point out that many times editions of that novel actually include contextual info in the form of a foreward by an academic. Thus, a similar petition against Lolita would already be satisfied.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Lol, I missed the tw**t from the petition author that totally demolishes my argument. While the petition itself doesn’t merely call for removal of the painting, the tw**t does.

      • BJ
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        Even if it did just call for “context,” that context would of course be a message agreeing with the new puritans that any art they find personally offensive is, in fact, offensive, harmful, and promotes whatever particular evil they say it does. No such context should be required or needed.

        • Craw
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          The “context” is really nothing but an acknowledgement of their right to demand a statement about “context”. It is NEVER about anything but demands for submission with SJWs.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            Puritanism has historically been an affliction of the Right. It wasn’t until Andrea Dworkin and the anti-sex feminists came along (and made common cause with the right-wing censors of the Meese Commission) that it got a toehold on the Left.

            • BJ
              Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

              What’s really interesting, though, is that, since the two sides joining up, the societal power has shifted from the puritans of the Right to the puritans of the Left. And the puritanical streak on the left seems to be spreading, as more and more people who consider themselves liberal or progressive conform to what they’re told is required of anyone who wishes to label themselves as such.

              Of course, such restrictions are expressly anti-liberal/progressive, but most people don’t think too much about these things and simply do what they’re told is right by those they respect or see as authorities.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                I don’t see that they’re making much in the way of inroads upon society at large. They must resisted at every turn — as the Met, to its credit, did here.

                I doubt we’ll ever see a regressive leftist get him-or-herself appointed, as Anthony Comstock did, a US postal inspector (or commissar of the internet, as the equivalent might be today).

              • Craw
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

                No inroads? look at Corey Huag’s comment below. They have made what seem to be lunatic inroads.
                We agree they must be resisted though.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

                I take Carey Haug’s comment at #33 below to be sarcastic. In any event, I’m talking about legal inroads. To my knowledge, for all their efforts, anti-sex feminists have had no success in changing any laws.

            • Craw
              Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              So only on the Left for …. most of the lives of most of us here?

              I think the puritan impulse has been around, on both sides, for a long time. William Jennings Bryan was the Democrat for president in 3 elections for example.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

                WJB was a Democrat, alright, but that doesn’t make him a man of the Left. There’s been a substantial realignment of the parties since then. Bryan’s economic populism may have been on the left for his time, but in his cultural populism he was the forerunner of Trumpism. Anyway, Bryan was a scriptural literalist, but I’m unaware of his having puritanical views concerning sex.

                Plus, the more important point here is that free speech is a value primarily championed by the Left. Look at the landmark free-expression opinions from SCOTUS and you’ll find them written by stalwarts of the Left — Brandeis, Black, Douglas, Brennan (and, on occasion, by Republican moderates like John Harlan and Potter Stewart), not by right-wing justices. American rightwingers are johnny-come-latelies to this fight, who seem to have discovered the First Amendment only when they get no-platformed on campus, or need the ACLU to pull a parade permit.

              • BJ
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

                “Plus, the more important point here is that free speech is a value primarily championed by the Left. Look at the landmark free-expression opinions from SCOTUS and you’ll find them written by stalwarts of the Left…”

                And they are part of the old Left (additionally, while those landmark decisions may have been from judges who were considered “of the Left” at the time, most conservative judges in recent history at the higher levels of the judiciary have been staunch supporters of the First Amendment, which seems more relevant). The Left is now, undeniably, moving in a different direction. This isn’t just apparent in academe and student activism, but in left-wing media as well, and in the changing rhetoric of left-wing politics and the regular use of arguments echoing the “there is a difference between free speech and hate speech” argument. It remains to be seen whether left-wing judicial nominations will reflect this, but right-wing judicial nominations in recent history haven’t generally been poor supporters of the First Amendment.

                “American rightwingers are johnny-come-latelies to this fight, who seem to have discovered the First Amendment only when they get no-platformed on campus, or need the ACLU to pull a parade permit.”

                And left-wingers are johnny-come-latelys to the other side of the fence. Both represent a shift.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                Can you point me to some legal decisions by liberal judges at the “higher level of the judiciary,” or actions taken by actual liberal media organizations (as opposed, say, to some backwater blogs), that have taken a restrictive position on free speech? Because I don’t see this happening.

              • BJ
                Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                No, and I never made such a claim. You implied that free speech has been an almost exclusively left-wing position until the last few years, and even still is. Actually, you stated this by using the present tense in saying, “Plus, the more important point here is that free speech is a value primarily championed by the Left.”

                I was simply noting that your construction of free speech support among the Left versus Right wasn’t accurate. In the judiciary, free speech hasn’t been an exclusively left-wing issue for decades, and in the political and academic spheres, the circumstances of which side is currently a better champion of free speech is now best described as “complicated.”

  8. Robert Bray
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    ‘child,’ ‘young girl,’ ‘prepubescent girl’– is this the person of female gender that everyone else sees in the painting? If so, I need psychological corrective lenses.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Perhaps there’s some sort of “Moore-o-meter” we could use to gauge her maturity.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Chief Justice Moore no doubt would’ve been the first to order such a painting removed from a museum in Alabama (if he wasn’t too busy hustlin’ jailbait down at the local mall).

        • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          And have it sent to his house.

    • paul fauvet
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      How inconsiderate of the painter not to have included his subject’s birth certificate. To me she looks rather older than my own daughter, who is 23.

  9. naveen1941
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The problem of “Sex and Christians” originated in the Garden of Eden, later adopted by all Abrahamic cults (I refuse to call them religions). There is no such thing among Hindus who were forced to learn by Muslims in 900 year occupation and by Christians in 200 year occupation. But the modicum of learning showed the immense failure of these “prude” systems.Some of our temples show explicit sex. We also believe “rasa” is in the minds and eyes of the audience and not in the performers. By the way the current sexual revelations also have origins in the same Garden.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I’ve never found them sexual at all, though I suppose pedophiles could.

    Thank god the founders, we don’t censor based on the foulest instincts of the worst among us in the good old US of A (at least not since the days of Anthony Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice).

  11. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Not mentioned in the Times piece, but relevant, I think, is Balthus’s deliberate nod to Picasso’s “The Dream” (“Le Rêve), another “sexualized,” “voyeuristic” portrait of a seated, sleeping (dreaming) young woman, who is also named Thérèse–Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter.

    • John Crisp
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      That is very interesting to know! They say that all art is permanently in dialogue with itself, and artists with their predecessors and with the future.

    • nicky
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      To be honest, although you maybe right, I do not really see the nod. Picasso’s is a quite abstract, far from erotic painting, Balthus’ is a highly ‘realistic’ and a highly ‘erotically charged’ one.

  12. John Crisp
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I seem to remember that a remake of the film Lolita with Jeremy Irons in the lead role attracted a fair amount of criticism 20 years back. I can see why it is problematic: it is based on the classic paedophile’s premise that the child is the seducer. A great and subtle novel, of course, but tricky to film in today’s climate (I have only seen the 1962 version with James Mason, who was good at creepy roles…).

    The situation is slightly different for the painting here. The girl is simply in a “reverie” as painted, but of course she was modelling and would therefore have been asked by the artist to adopt this pose, making both the artist and the viewer complicit as voyeurs, but the “innocent” model also complicit in acting out a role that feeds the artist’s (and the eventual viewer’s) voyeurism… In 1938, when this was painted, I guess that girls would have been taught from a very young age not to adopt poses like this, so implicit in the painting is the (obviously false) idea that the subject was alone with her cat, and completely relaxed. These kinds of games of artifice, and the interplay between artist, viewer and model, are what makes art interesting and sometimes edgy.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      You write:

      In 1938, when this was painted, I guess that girls would have been taught from a very young age not to adopt poses like this…

      I suppose your generalisation is generally true if one thinks of middle class Britain [& the like], but is it true for Europe? At that time the Germans were crazy for flinging all their clothes off & running around naked in parks & on beaches – and they still are. In Scandinavia I think the day will come where one will be prosecuted for donning clothes in inappropriate situations! I know that Iceland has been very relaxed about this sort of thing for decades.

      As for Balthus’ circle of friends in 30s Paris [& later in Switzerland] – I think that barriers were abhorrent to them as a matter of principle.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        “but is it true for Europe?”

        Of course it is. I can assure you that in Germany the overwhelming majority does not practice naturist culture.
        The same applies to the time at the beginning of the 20th century: that naturism in Germany was practiced by special nudist associations does not mean that the majority would have ever practiced this practice.

        Also in your argument you overlook something crucial:

        The naturist culture expressly sees itself as non-sexual.
        In other words, nudity should not appeal to sexuality.
        Laszive, sexually suggestive poses as in the painting are therefore also no expression of a naturist culture and find by this no legitimacy.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I seem to remember that a remake of the film Lolita with Jeremy Irons in the lead role attracted a fair amount of criticism 20 years back. I can see why it is problematic: it is based on the classic paedophile’s premise that the child is the seducer.

      No, it’s based on the premise that the pedophile believes the child to be the seducer. Humbert is an unreliable narrator.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        And somehow putting it in narration makes people commit the pathetic fallacy in spades – i.e., assert that Nabokov is endorsing what his character is doing.

  13. Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I am shocked–shocked–to find that art is going on in there.

  14. Richard Bond
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    The pecksniffs remind me of a terrible old schoolboy joke:

    Psychiatrist (draws line on paper): what does that remind you of?

    Patient (grunts lustfully): a naked woman in bed!

    Psy: I see, draws second line, what does that remind you of?

    P: (grunts even more lustfully): two naked woman in a bed!

    Psy: hmmm, draws third line.

    P: (almost has orgasm): three naked women in a bed!

    Psy: you seem to be obsessed about sex.

    P: not me: you are the one drawing the filthy pictures!

    I think that The Perfect Tomato by Sally Mann (in one of the NYT links) is extraordinarily beautiful, but only a paedophile could see it as sexy. There are good evolutionary reasons why we find children attractive, but lust does not come into it for normal people.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Way I heard that joke, the shrink was running around with a briefcase full of dirty Rorschach inkblots. 🙂

      • Richard Bond
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Very good! I like that version, but I was thinking back 60 years to when I and my teenage friends had probably not heard of Rorschach.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        I like the passage from Tom Sharpe’s satire ‘Wilt’ (this is very loosely, from memory):

        Police psychiatrist: What does *this* look like to you?
        Wilt (sarcastically): It looks like a Rorschach inkblot test.

        cr

        • Posted December 6, 2017 at 4:25 am | Permalink

          I must remember that when they come for me.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 7, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

            It’ll earn you another trip down the stairs.
            Dangerous things, stairs.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 9, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            BTW, was it you who was looking for a replacement for BBCodeExtra, on FF-57?
            A couple of days ago I swapped the stock FF57 install for the version specifically prepared for my Distro … and things have broken badly. Mail services not working, pages not completing … complete mess. So I’ve just re-installed FF-56, and may try going back up to FF(stock)-57 later. BBCodeExtra back in work.

            • Posted December 10, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

              Yes, it was me. Michael Fisher suggested trying Waterfox, which I’m using now. BBCodeXtra works fine, and Waterfox appears to use about 50% less RAM than Firefox 57, which was pushing my RAM close to the limit. Waterfox feels just like FF56, and everything transferred over easily. simple download and install, well worth a try.

    • Jamie
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      That’s funny! Then there’s the one that goes like this:

      Psych: What do you most like to do?

      Young male patient: I like firing slingshots.

      Psych: Don’t you like playing with girls?

      Young male patient: I’d rather play with my slingshot.

      Psych: You don’t ever play with girls?

      Young male patient: Well, sometimes I do like to ask a girl to come behind the wood shed…

      Psych (thinking now we’re getting somewhere): Yes, and then what?

      Young male patient: I ask them to take off their underware…

      Psych (salivating): Yes, go on.

      Young male patient: The elastic makes a good slingshot.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        ROTFL! 😎

        cr

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      “There are good evolutionary reasons why we find children attractive, but lust does not come into it for normal people.

      That is not quite right. There are researchers who see in the Hebephilia an adaptive evolutionary strategy:

      “Examination of historical, cross-cultural, sociological, cross-species, non-clinical empirical, and evolutionary evidence and perspectives indicated that hebephilic interest is an evolved capacity and hebephilic preference an expectable distributional variant, both of which were adaptively neutral or functional, not dysfunctional, in earlier human environments. ”

      (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10508-012-9982-y)

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and man alone in the animal kingdom has the ability to adopt norms for the benefit society in contravention to evolutionary instinct.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        There is evidence that the taboo involving sibling marriage stems from an evolved reluctance to mate with children you closely grew up with. The selective pressure at work here would be that incest generates weakened offspring. The taboo involving hebephilia doesn’t seem to have a similar downside unless it involves father daughter incest.

      • Robert McLindsay
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Hebephilia is definitely an adaptive strategy for men. It’s a bit taboo to talk about but it’s common practice in primitive foraging societies for men to marry and have sex with pubescent girls, so we know the strategy works just fine.

        In one of his papers Ray Blanchard tried to use reproductive statistics from the Pume tribe to demonstrate that acquiring pubescent wives is maladaptive. What he didn’t seem to realise is that in this tribe most girls are married off by the time they’re 14 and the men usually start having sex with them about 12.

    • nicky
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      See my comment at 29. You are right there.

  15. TJR
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    See also the Spitting Image sketch where Mary Whitehouse complains that “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is pornographic.

    You’ll never hear the phrase “the purple-headed mountain” the same way again.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      You’ll never hear the phrase “the purple-headed mountain” the same way again.

      I thought that was a reference to the Bishop of Somewhere making a complete fool of himself and his church along with Malcolm Muggeridge over “Life of Brian“. (Riposte 3 days later.)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 7, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        Damn. I certainly will never hear that phrase the same way again. Some images are ineradicable. 😉

        I *thought* you were gonna link to the Not The Nine O’clock News sketch – a classic, IMO.

        cr

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 9, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          I *thought* you were gonna link to the Not The Nine O’clock News sketch – a classic, IMO.

          Second link of original post was to the Not riposte to the “two pythons crushing a bishop and a Mugg” original.
          Verily a classic – and I remember seeing both original (though possibly I saw it on a Sunday repeat – I’ve always had it in the head as a Sunday programme) and raving about how silly it had been to the RE teacher at school on the Monday morning, to then have my sense of the surreal confirmed by the the Nots that evening.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 9, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

            When I said “I *thought* you were gonna…” I meant my guess had been confirmed. It reads like I meant the opposite. Bad phrasing on my part, sorry.

            It’s all on Youtube, of course, and both the links you gave are great to watch.

            cr

  16. Mike Anderson
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    First they came for Balthus, and I did not speak out –

    Because I was not fond of Balthus.

    Then they came for Gauguin, and I’m like “now wait minute…”

  17. Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Edvard Munch’s second most famous painting is of a naked pubescent girl. It is far more suggestive.

    These people make me want to Scream.

  18. DrBrydon
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I was going to say wait until she finds out about The Rape of the Sabine Women, but you beat me to it, Jerry. Merrill claims she wasn’t looking to censor the picture, but her tweet clearly says she wants it taken down. If every piece of art that offended someone were taken down, the art museums would be empty.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Amen.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Shoot. Wait til she sees Balthus’ “the guitar lesson”.

  19. Liz
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve never heard of this artist until now. Part of the experience of looking at this artwork is the wonder of what the artist is expressing. The artwork is engaging. The museum shouldn’t have even put a warning for it. This is what artwork is all about. The Living Room and Patience are interesting. Here is an age of consent link: https://www.ageofconsent.net/world. In Austria, Italy, and Germany the age of consent is 14. He might be very close to the line. That’s what artists do.

    I found this about The Guitar Lesson. I sort of figured this but wasn’t sure. “Looking at the Balthus study sketches done for this painting (The Guitar Lesson), it becomes clear that he wanted to paint himself as a teacher but probably he realized that such scene would not be acceptable for any public display. It would be too personal and too revealing. . .That is why he decided to replace himself with a woman.” http://pijet.com/2008/06/16/the-adoration-or-perversity-of-childhood-in-balthuss-paintings/

  20. AC Harper
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    David is just a male and therefore cannot be sexually exploited.
    {satire}

  21. Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I think her argument is done about as well as any I have seen from that sort, but the reply from the Met is even better. You can’t evolve a debate to a consensus by first censoring one side of the debate.

  22. Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Do we know if there was a model involved? That sort of makes a difference – then the question of consent of the subject comes in.

  23. chewy
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Here’s what we do: get rid of everything, all art, literature (pulp to classics), and music while we’re at it, and start over. Then we can get everyone’s approval or at least permission before we have any more art, music, writing, etc. The details will need to be worked on, naturally, but maybe if we do this every 5 years or so, everything will be unobjectionable.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      That would be a strawman, even with your polemics removed. Example: wanting gore and porn not shown to kindergarten kids does not imply that the advocate wants it all destroyed or generally banned. They only want it removed from certain contexts.

  24. rickflick
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I’ve always favored mixed motif.

    Nude cat Derain:
    https://tenestelapromessa.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/derain-balthus-giacometti-une-amitie-artistique-mam-juin-2017/#jp-carousel-2875

  25. Paul S
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    If Mia Merrill thinks this is undeniably romanticizing the sexualization of a child, she’s projecting what she wants to see. That’s what I find a bit disturbing.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      See my comment #15.

  26. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Posting this blogpost on Facebook now risks getting your Facebook page shut down… if enough Pecknsniffs object. Interesting times.

  27. nicky
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    On a side note to ephebophilia (except for “the guitar lesson” most of Balthus erotic paintings depict not pre-pubescent, but pubescent girls), we should realise that the old lecher’s prediliction for ‘young flesh’ has, in traditional societies, caused us to conquer Hamilton’s “Wall of Death”.
    Indeed, elderly males being still reproductively successful, well after women of comparable age have passed into menopause, must have been instrumental in keeping deleterious older age mutations at bay, kept a selective pressure against these mutations.
    “Why Men Matter: Mating Patterns Drive Evolution of Human Lifespan”
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0000785

    • Liz
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      It isn’t clear that the girl in “The Guitar Lesson” is pre-pubescent. Many of his other drawings of girls/women with breasts also don’t have pubic hair. Not all girls/women have noticeable breasts. I’m not an art expert but it seems to me that he paints these girls/women in a way that draws attention to the blurry age boundary. That is partly what is artistic about it. It’s also possible, but maybe not likely, the women he was around during that time had it all waxed off. While it’s more popular now, it’s been around for a while apparently. https://www.livestrong.com/article/272706-history-of-body-waxing-hair-removal/

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        The tradition is centuries old in some societies. In the Arabic world it has been a common practice for women (only married women) since the middle ages. In every town of reasonable size there is a public bath for women and any who wish to have it done can do so there. It’s called “al-sukar” or literally “sugar” (the technique uses sugar in the place of wax), typically by what we’d call contractors, all women of course, who work at the baths in service to their clientele.

        Some of my female expat friends used to remark how odd it was to see even very old women at the baths who had no body hair.

  28. Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    At age 19 I ran through the entire Met in about three hours, probably a record. My mom asked, “Did you actually see anything?”

    My point is one could spend a week at the Met and never see a painting that is offensive.

    Even my kids know enough to not bother with art that does not suit their attentions and they wouldn’t bother complaining to the curator to take it off the walls.

  29. Curt Nelson
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    To me, a young girl is 3 to 7 years old. Older than that they are just girls. The one in the painting looks like a teenager. Probably a girl (younger than 18) but not a young girl.

    The same system goes for boys.

  30. Carey Haug
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    When my son was accused of sexting (he asked for a bikini picture), we were informed by the police that it’s unlawful for people under 18 to look at pictures of underclothed people who might be under 18. It’s illegal to generate, request, or look at such pictures. If that painter were alive, he could be charged with child porn in my state.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      I think the local cops are blowin’ smoke up your cell phone. Don’t know what jurisdiction you live in, but it would contravene the First Amendment for a law to prohibit the exchange of pictures that merely depicted “underclothed” minors or mere “suggestive” poses (or that depict people over 18 engaged in sexually explicit activity merely because they look like they’re younger).

      It would also contravene the First Amendment for a law to prohibit sexually explicit paintings or drawings or computer-generated images of minors. See Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.

      • Carey Haug
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the thought and for the link. Unfortunately many states, including Vermont, still use child porn laws to prosecute teens for foolish, but typical adolescent behavior. We avoided court, but had a Kafka-esque experience with a restorative justice program. The legal case was weak and my husband is a lawyer, but we didn’t dare risk our son being put on a sex offender registry.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          but had a Kafka-esque experience with a restorative justice program.

          Of course you did. The programme was probably designed (or based on a design by) a dedicated fan of Kafka, who trained as a lawyer specifically so they could carry out this piece of performance art on the public.
          (And I don’t need to know which country or other jurisdiction you’re in. Same people.)

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      I thought of your post when walking on Piha Beach yesterday. Bikinis seem to be getting smaller (which, I should add, I heartily approve and appreciate). And it occurred to me that your son would have to be blindfolded should he wish to walk down the beach.

      Or is it okay to look, just not to take (consensual) photos?

      But yes, there have been cases reported of censorious / puritanical / authoritarian police or prosecutors abusing child-protection laws, such as threatening teens who sent revealing pictures *of themselves* to their boyfriends with prosecution under kiddie-porn laws directed at adults and carrying heavy penalties. One has to ask just who these thugs – sorry, ‘authorities’ – thought they were protecting?

      cr

  31. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    It is intersting that this Pecksniff refers to “showcasing this work for the masses without providing any type of clarification”; and adds:

    “I am asking The Met to…be more conscientious in how they contextualize those pieces to the masses”. 

    De haut en bas or what? What gives her the right to dictate to ordinary people how they should react to works of art?

    • Carey Haug
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Some members of the unwashed masses might not be “woke” enough to realize they should be offended. Worse yet, some might be inspired to become pedophiles. Also, this woman deserves credit for virtue signaling.

  32. Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    There seems to be an array of tolerances to this form of art and would I like my daughter to be subjected to this manipulation at a young age, probably not.
    The artists motivation comes into question and am I condoning and abetting because on the face of it I don’t have a problem with the image of a young women relaxing in private if this is a spontaneous pose. Does it really need it to be censored to protect my or someone else’s sense of decency.? Well I leave that to the individual to chose to look or not.

  33. Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Does this apply only to art depicting pre-pubescent or pubescent female humans?

    We can delve throughout our historical past as well as present and find nude or partially nude paintings of both females and males in many cultures. Whether the art depicts reality, fantasy, or sexual obsession is interpreted by the viewer. If there’d been the necessary equipment for taking photographs in other eras of history, we’d be seeing photos of people partially undressed
    in the fashion fashion of the time.

    In addition, there’s so much art in which non humans (plants, animals, rock formations, etc.) are presented in sexualized form by the artist. Note numerous Georgia O’Keefe flower paintings, for example.

    Let me know when to show up for the bonfire!

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Rats! Sorry about the double “fashion”.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Keep it! It’ll come back into fashion fashion one day.

  34. eric
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I look at her thin arms, and the dirt on the dress, and the title, and immediately think “she’s dreaming of a better life/getting out of poverty.” But I guess that’s just me.

    As for the Met supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children…doesn’t practically every painting of a child do that? After all, you’re viewing the child without them being aware they’re doing it, in a vulnerable moment of their life. And painting someone onto canvas is a form of turning a person into an object.

  35. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    We simultaneously live in a sexually predatory society (a term I prefer to the overly sensationalistic and overstated “rape culture”), and we are very uncomfortable with the fact that in some ways older children really are sexual beings, and we want to pretend they are not. I don’t see that this painting directly encourages assault in any way although it is certainly erotically charged. The painting is also genuinely beautiful.

    A 20th century photographer who often took pictures of nude adolescent girls, David Hamilton, was accused recently of having raped 4 underage models in the 1970s. He denied the charges on round 1, but after 3 more charges committed suicide. The similarities between his work and that of Balthus (Hamilton’s work is much more overtly sexual) do give me pause, but guilt by association is always and everywhere a bad thing.

    A different painting by Balthus (“Katia Reading”) is vigorously defended by Camille Paglia in an essay in her book “Vamps and Tramps”. (The essay is “Pop theater”.)

    An interesting defense of this painting, claiming that it is simultaneously erotic and real art has been made by Brian Oard.
    I give these two quotes

    “An Apollonian/Dionysian axis cuts horizontally across the painting at the level of the tabletop. Above this line, all is still, hard, bounded Apollonian form. The still life objects are arranged in a row that also includes the great closed form of Thérèse’s arms. Her head is depicted in strong profile, the most hieratic, Apollonian mode of portraiture…Below this horizontal axis, all is careless Dionysian abandon and dark, erotic life…Perhaps this Apollonian/Dionysian dualism in Thérèse’s own figure is a key to the attraction/repulsion effect of the painting as a whole….This unsettling combination of exhibitionism and inwardness raises the painting out of the realm of crude titillation and into the arena of high art”

    Full essay: https://sites.google.com/site/beautyandterror/Home/viewer-as-voyeur

  36. Posted December 5, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Chicago ruined me for all other US dining locations. I still say to my wife, do you remember the meal we had at The Bakery or The Cape Cod Room? Those were special occasions, of course. But I remember Pizzaria Uno with great fondness, and Ribs and Bibs near where I lived at 53rd and S Dorchester. That was our take-out when we were to lazy to cook, which was often. Now gone, but not forgotten.

    I want to visit Chicago again just to go to Alinea.

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Ooops, wrong place.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        but you were inducing my salivary glands to become active

  37. yazikus
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I’m not on the art-censoring train. I remember getting to go see an Andreas Serrano exhibit years ago, and there were fears the museum might be vandalized because of the exhibit. I emerged unscathed.
    I think the painting above is quite innocent, and only when coupled with the comments about Balthus and his particular tastes does it become suspect. So, is a painting by a perv (if he was) perverted as well? I think not.

    Speaking of the Sabine Women, I’d sooner see 7 Brides for 7 Brothers banned than any paintings of the event.

  38. yazikus
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh, also this reminds me of a mural commissioned for the WA State legislative building, The Labors of Hercules. The Senators were not keen on the modern style, and saw pornography everywhere. While they bickered about it, drapes covered the mural in the Senate gallery. It was eventually removed and is housed at a college in a town a bit away. That is one reason why you’ll find almost no examples of representative art at WA’s capitol. Too messy, apparently.

  39. Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks. Burn statues and all ancient art. Feel sorry for the Sabine women and the men who were mocked in Lysistrata

  40. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    “Here’s a version by Rubens:
    [Rape of the Sabine Women]
    I’m not quite sure why people aren’t up in arms about paintings like that.”

    Don’t encourage them! 😦

    cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      “first they came for the Sabines,
      but I did not protest, for I was not a Sabine …”

  41. Robert Bate
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I went to an art school years ago where they loved Balthus, almost as much as they loved Giorgio Morandi (who only painted bottles) – these two were deemed to be artist’s artists, real artists the untutored couldn’t appreciate. The bearded male professors would wax poetic on Balthus’s masterful use of negative space and his use of composition within the picture frame to create a painting with a strong use of plastic space. I was always a bit suspicious of their enthusiasm.

  42. Brian salkas
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I still gotta say, even with ridiculous outrage like this, the left still comes out on top of the political right as far as opposition to art is concerned. Remember the outrage over the piss-Jesus?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Remember the outrage over the piss-Jesus?

      Ummm, no. At least, not under that name. Was it before or after the 5th Rediscovery of the Baby Jesus Butt-plug?

  43. Posted December 6, 2017 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Wonder what she would make of Courbet’s “L’origine du monde”.

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted December 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Holy sh*t. Don’t click on that link at work.

      • Liz
        Posted December 6, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        No kidding. I did that this morning.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          Wow.

          cr

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          But the painting has been known since 1866. So … (1 minus v-squared over c-squared) you’re travelling at something within 30,000km/s of light speed?
          Wave at 1I/2017 U1 as you pass!


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