Can you imagine that many masterpieces were subject of ‘censorship(s)’ in their own time? This section will explore some of those artworks.
The Last Judgment from the Sistine Chapel (1546–50) by Giulio Bonasone|Michelangelo Buonarroti|Antonio SalamancaThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
Il Giudizio Universale (1541) caused immense controversy within the Church. It conveys a pessimistic message, portraits a satire of important people and shows aggressive nude representation. Michelangelo had a rough time within the Church and he reflected it on the fresco.
24 years after the inauguration of Il Giudizio Universale, the Church – through the Council of Trent - condemned nudity in art. So some figures in the fresco were covered by the artist Daniele da Volterra.
Nowadays, these two figures, St. Catharine and St. Blaise are covered.
Michelangelo, Studies for the 'Last Judgement' (1534)British Museum
This is one of the remaining 6 studies made by Michelangelo for Il Giudizio Universale. It is possible to notice the interweaving of physical bodies, movements, and the tangle of figures. This exaggerated form of representation of a naked body was not common at its time.
The origin of the world (L’Origine du monde) (1866) by Gustave CourbetFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
A small picture can cause a lot of controversies. L'Origine du monde by Gustave Courbet (1866) is an example. This painting was shown to the public for the first time 100 years after its conclusion.
Until now, this painting incites discussions about the limits of art, 'censorship(s)', and 'freedom of expression'.
In 2011, a professor posted it as a profile picture and had his account 'censored' by Facebook. This intrigue gripped over years at French and American courts.
In 2014, artist Deborah de Robertis performed in front of the painting in Museé D'Orsay. She opened her legs and showed her naked body. Safeguards and the police retained her.
Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe) (1863) by Édouard ManetFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
The masterpiece, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, by Manet was censored by a Parisian jury during its exhibition in 1863.
For the jury the problem was not the representation of the naked figure, but the mixture of the mythological and Parisian realities.
Manet combined a representation of a nude mythological nymph, typical of Classical and Neoclassical paintings, with daily Parisian life.
On the other hand, Steoville’s collage can be 'censored' by social media.
Paths of Glory (1917) by Christopher NevinsonFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
In 1917, this painting was 'censored' by Lt. Colonel Lee (art censorship agent). He argued it was negative propaganda of the First World War. Nevinson was representing the reality of war once he had fought on the fronts. This painting was inspired in the poem of Thomas Grey.
Despite this 'military censorship', the artist exhibited the artwork at the Leicester Galleries. On top of the painting, he put a strip of brown paper running with the word 'censored'.
At the time, his action echoed on the media, and the exhibition was a success.
Eternal Walkers (1919) by Lasar SegallFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
Another dimension of 'censorship' on artworks was carried out under the Nazi regime. What did not belong to the Aryan standards was displayed as 'degenerate art' in museums.
These exhibitions were designed to show what was 'wrong art' and prohibited to the public. For example, works by avant-garde artists (like Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso) were displayed alongside images of individuals with disabilities and physical deformations.
Eternos Caminhantes (1919), by Lasar Segall, is one example of a painting 'censored' by the Nazi regime and considered 'degenerate art'.
A further historical chapter of 'censorship' was the destruction of Diego Rivera's mural by its commissioner, Nelson Rockefeller (1933). At first, the idea of the artwork had been approved by the Rockefeller family: the opposition of Capitalism and Communism.
Man, Controller of the Universe (1934) by Diego RiveraFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
During the production, the commissioner realized that Lenin's face had been represented and pleaded for it to be erased. The artist refused.
As a result, the painting was left unfinished and later destroyed. This is the new mural of Rockfeller's building. We only have some pictures of the original Rivera's painting. Still, he repainted a similar mural at Mexico's Palacio de Bellas Artes, as shown before.
Portrait of Cândido Portinari (1962) by UnknownFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
This is the famous Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari. The Brazilian government commissioned two gigantic murals as a gift to the UN (1952).
Strangely, the artist did not attend the UN vernissage...
Due to Portinari's involvement with the Communist Party, he was not invited to attend the ceremony, being represented by the head of the Brazilian delegation to the Organization, Ambassador Cyro de Freitas-Valle.
Ambassador Cyro de Freitas-Valle said: With regret, I do not see him among us today. And he added: I want to emphasize one point: Brazil is offering today to the United Nations what it believes to be the best it has to give.
CURATORSHIP: Mariana Eça Negreiros under the supervision of Hugo Barreira and Diana Felícia.
TEXTS: Mariana Eça Negreiros with scientific review by Hugo Barreira, Inês de Carvalho Costa and Maria Leonor Botelho.
PRODUCTION: This work results from a project by Mariana Eça Negreiros for the master's Degree in Art History, Heritage and Visual Culture at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto, developed at CITCEM/FLUP during 2020/2021 and approved by the scientific committee in office.
PROJECT REPORT: https://repositorio-aberto.up.pt/handle/10216/139719
TRANSLATION REVIEW: Isabel Silva (« Financed by FCT - National Foundation for Science and Technology, under the project UIDB/04059/2020»).