The opulent, exuberant nudes of Peter Paul Rubens have been evoking both shock and delight for four centuries and now, in 2018, his Baroque paintings are causing controversy on the internet.
Museums in Belgium are uniting in protest against Facebook because they cannot promote Flemish Masters, including Rubens, as they fall foul of the social media site’s adult content rules and automatic censorship.
“The bare breasts and buttocks painted by our artist are considered by you to be inappropriate. We have noticed that Facebook consistently rejects works of art by our beloved Peter Paul Rubens,” more than a dozen top Belgian art officials wrote to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
The Visit Flanders tourist board has even produced a mock news video where security officials prevent visitors from seeing nudity in the Rubens House museum.
In one scene an official spreads his arms in front of the Adam And Eve painting, in which the biblical figures are covered only by the proverbial fig leaf, instead diverting them to other paintings where everyone is properly dressed.
Point made, they hope.
“Twenty per cent of the (Facebook) posts that we dedicated to the Flemish Masters couldn’t be shown to our audience, our cultural audience worldwide,” said Visit Flanders spokeswoman Tama d’Haen.
“It’s really embarrassing for Visit Flanders that we cannot show one of our main assets to the world. That’s why we came up with the idea of a video.”
Facebook said it understands the issues.
Even if it allows paintings like those from Rubens to be posted, it has more restrictive rules when it comes to advertising which “must not contain adult content. This includes nudity, depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.”
The rules go on to say that it includes “nudity or implied nudity, even if artistic or educational in nature”.
And that is where Rubens and other Masters get caught in the act.