Cranach’s Venus is too saucy for London Underground travellers, according to Transport for London, which has banned its use in an advertisement. This wonderful image, at once demure and enticing, had been chosen to advertise a Royal Academy show devoted to the great 16th century artist. It’s one of a number of Venuses produced by Cranach: there’s a particularly lascivious one, wearing a splendid hat and lounging against, if not actually dangling from, a tree while she listens to Cupid, who’s no doubt used to this sort of behaviour. He’s complaining that he’s been stung by bees while trying to steal their honey. The painting represents the notion that all pleasure is mixed with pain, and it’s an allegory that might be applied to Transport for London’s decision to punish the RA for daring to bring a little artistic pleasure into travellers’ lives.
Apparently the painting might ‘offend’. A Transport for London spokesman said: “Millions of people travel on the London Underground each day and they have no choice but to view whatever ads are posted there. We have to take into account the full range of travellers and endeavour not to cause offence in the adverts we display.” It’s pretty clear to me that the only travellers of this ‘full range’ who might be offended by the painting are Muslim males and, at a pinch, our own home-grown fundamentalist killjoys. It’s a pre-emptive strike in favour of bigotry, with the authorities trying to double-guess what might be ‘upsetting’ and who might be ‘upset’, though they can’t actually say this.
Poor old Cranach. Poor us.