Banning a masterpiece: Prehistoric ‘Venus’ statue too hot for Facebook

The tiny statuette of a voluptuous naked woman, which is some 30,000 years old, was discovered in the Austrian village of Willendorf in the early 20th century.

art and culture Updated: Mar 01, 2018 14:02 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Venus,‘Venus’ statue,Banned statue
The prehistoric "Venus of Willendorf" figurine pictured at the Nature Historical Museum in Vienna, Austria. (AFP)

The prehistoric ‘Venus of Willendorf’ figurine, considered a masterpiece of the paleolithic era, has been censored by Facebook, drawing an indignant response Wednesday from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, where it is on display.

The tiny statuette of a voluptuous naked woman, which is some 30,000 years old, was discovered in the Austrian village of Willendorf in the early 20th century and is considered “the icon” of the museum, the facility’s director general Christian Koeberl said in a statement.

The 11 centimetre (4 inch) statue from the early stone age is “the most popular and best-known prehistoric representation of a woman worldwide,” he added.

A person opening a box containing the prehistoric "Venus of Willendorf" figurine at the Nature Historical Museum in Vienna, Austria. (AFP)

The controversy began in December when Italian arts activist Laura Ghianda posted a picture of the artwork on the social networking site which went viral.

After it was censored she messaged that “this statue is not ‘dangerously pornographic’. The war on human culture and modern intellectualism will not be tolerated.”

The natural history museum voiced outrage, saying in its statement; “we think that an archeological object, especially such an iconic one, should not be banned from Facebook because of ‘nudity’, as no artwork should be.

“Let the Venus be naked! Since 29,500 years she shows herself as prehistoric fertility symbol without any clothes. Now Facebook censors it and upsets the community,” it said.

“There is no reason for the Natural History Museum Vienna to cover the ‘Venus of Willendorf’, and hide her nudity, neither in the museum nor on social media,” Koeberl insisted.

“There has never been a complaint by visitors concerning the nakedness of the figurine,” he added.

The museum said it had never directly experienced censorship by Facebook, despite its recent post on “Stone Age pornography”.

Facebook is regularly criticised over content which it bans or indeed content it allows to be published. On March 15, a French court is due to pronounce on the decision by the California-based social networking site to close the Facebook account of someone who posted a photo of 19th century French painter Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World” painting, which depicts female genitalia.

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First Published: Mar 01, 2018 14:02 IST