Artistic scandals are numerous. Some works, when they were exhibited or published caused a scandal: the religious, social and moral contexts evolve over time, but some works representing or suggesting nudity were condemned, censored, especially in times when it was taboo.
Titian’s "Venus of Urbino" made a scandal during the 16th Century since it represents a naked woman lying on a bed. She asserts her sensuality and seduction, which might seem audacious for the time. The Venus of Urbino was later an inspiration for Manet’s "Olympia".
In the 17th Century, several works by Caravaggio were rejected by his sponsors because they were considered too vulgar: it is the case for "Saint Matthew and the Angel", for which the canons refused the way the figure of the saint was treated or "Death of the Virgin" which was considered blasphemous.
Later in the 19th Century, other artists produced works deemed offensive: "The Luncheon on the Grass" by Manet caused a scandal since it represents two naked women alongside two dressed men just like Courbet’s "The Origin of the World" which was not presentable at that time.
Whatever the periods, many works were considered shocking because of the nudity of the subjects or their ambiguous meaning. We can also name among these shocking works "Alice" by Balthus which shows a very erotic naked woman, turning viewers into voyeurs.
Discover the great masterpieces that caused resounding scandals.
Discredited, condemned and sometimes even censored, they are now considered as major works exhibited in the most prestigious museums.
Which works are they and why were they considered so scandalous? Take another look at Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass” or Courbet’s “The Origin of the World”, kept hidden for years by its owner.
Allow yourself to be swept away and perhaps even shocked in turn...
Enjoy your visit!
Masaccio: "Adam and Eve Driven from Paradise" (1427, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence)
Titian: "Venus of Urbino" (1538, Galleria degli Uffizi - Uffizi Gallery, Florence)
Michelangelo: "The Last Judgement" (c. 1536-41, Sistine Chapel, Vatican)
Caravaggio: "Death of the Virgin" (1606, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Artemisia Gentileschi: "Judith Beheading Holofernes" (c. 1611-1612, Museo di Capodimonte - Capodimonte Museum, Naples)
Théodore Géricault: "The Raft of the Medusa" (1819, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Eugène Delacroix: "The Massacre at Chios" (1824, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Édouard Manet: "The Luncheon on the Grass" (1863, (Musée d'Orsay - Orsay Museum, Paris)
Gustave Courbet: "The Origin of the World" (1866, (Musée d'Orsay - Orsay Museum, Paris)
Balthus: "Alice" (1933, Centre Pompidou - Pompidou Center, Paris)