Metropolitan Museum of Art Is Sued Over Display of ‘Racist’ 16th-Century Paintings of Jesus

The masterpieces show Jesus as a blond-haired white man.

Perugino The Resurrection (ca. 1502) Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A Manhattan man is suing New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art over the inclusion of four paintings depicting Jesus Christ as blond-haired and white.

Justin Renel Joseph filed the lawsuit at Manhattan Supreme Court on November 30, calling the paintings depicting an “Aryan” Jesus “racist” in the court documents. He labelled the public display of the masterpieces an “offensive aesthetic whitewashing,” and called for them to be removed because they represented an “extreme case of discrimination,” the New York Post reported.

Tintoretto The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (ca. 1545–50) Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Tintoretto The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (ca. 1545–50)
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Joseph claims that The Holy Family of Angels (ca. 1700) by Sebastiano Ricci; The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (ca. 1545–50) by Tintoretto; The Crucifixion (ca. 1510) by Francesco Granacci; and The Resurrection (ca. 1502) by Perugino, caused him “personal stress.”

In a phone interview with artnet News, Joseph said, “I shouldn’t have to go into the Metropolitan Museum and see paintings for white people. It doesn’t make me feel good. I have a little daughter. I don’t want her to see this.”

He continued, “This is the only art we see…It’s whites-only art.”

Sebastian Ricci The Holy Family of Angels (ca. 1700) Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Sebastian Ricci The Holy Family of Angels (ca. 1700)
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Joseph claims both the museum’s and the city of New York’s “imposition of anti-Semitic, racist and offensive artworks on the Plaintiff in a public forum, in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (the ‘First Amendment’) and in violation of Titles II and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The website takedownaryanjesusart.com provides Joseph’s short bio, as well as court documents and a quote of the day: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Francesco Granacci The Crucifixion (ca. 1510) Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Francesco Granacci The Crucifixion (ca. 1510)
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In response to the controversy, the museum justified the public display of the artworks to the Post, classifying them as “important, historically and artistically.”

Metropolitan Museum spokesperson Elyse Topalian said, “When they were painted, it was typical for artists to depict subjects with the same identity as the local audience. This phenomenon occurs in many other cultures, as well.”

In response to this assertion, Joseph told artnet News: “They’re basically saying these artists painted everyone to look like them, which is not true. Obviously when black people have a lesser role, it’s acceptable to have them in painting.”


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Article topics