Facebook banned a picture I posted illustrating a column about a painter who got a bum rap from art history. The social media site denied the image - Piero Cosimo’s “A Satyr Mourning Over a Nymph” – because it violated “Community Standards.” What exactly made it unfit for public consumption?

Where's the beef?

Consider what you would have seen on the site - a figure grieves over the death of a loved one. The mood is tender and quiet, so it’s hard to understand what makes this art objectionable. Granted figures from Greek mythology come unclothed. But in this instance, the genitals in both male and female are draped.

Only if you peer closely can you find a breast. Apparently, that bit of flesh was the offense.

A bad memory

It’s here, right here that I’m reminded how Facebook was founded when Mark Zuckerberg took revenge on a girl who rejected him by mocking her bra size on his website, known then as Facemash. And talk about offensive, what about his selling space on his site to the Russians, which means he had a hand in getting Trump elected. Where were his community standards then?

The naked truth

But even despite Zuckerberg’s anti-nudity policy, banning Cosimo’s painting makes no sense when compared with other pictures that have been disallowed. Last year I wrote about an art dealer in Milan, Hamilton Moura Filho, who posted a painting of a Cupid by 17th-century artist Caravaggio called “Amor Vincit Omnia” (Love Conquers All) in which the nudity is front and center.

You can’t miss it.

In the altogether

Judging art by how much anatomy it shows makes Zuckerberg censors philistines – antagonistic to art. Given Zuckerberg’s policy, Michelangelo’s let-it-all-hang-out “David” would be a no-no on Facebook, too. Ditto the Sistine Chapel ceiling view of Adam in the altogether. It’s worth mentioning, though, that after threatening to sue, the art dealer got the ban lifted.

And that wasn’t the first time the website backed down.

Comparing apples and oranges

Two years ago, a teacher in France, Frederic Durand-Baissas, posted an image of 19th-century painter Gustave Courbet’s artwork “The Origin of the World,” an up-close view of female genitalia, and when Facebook kept it off the site, he sued and prevailed.

The High Court in Paris decided that his rights to freedom of expression had been breached. If an in-your-face view of a vagina is OK, why not a barely visible rendition of a breast? Must I sue to show Cosimo’s picture?


Clearly, when it comes to visual art, it’s mindless to hold to an anti-nudity policy, which goes like this: “Displays of nudity won’t get space because “some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content – particularly because of their cultural background or age.” Admittedly, the Courbet is a bit raw, but what of Cosimo’s picture of grief? No matter the culture or the age, even infants know what a breast looks like.