New York man sues Metropolitan Museum, alleging racism in centuries-old paintings

Surely there is a statute of limitations on suing artists who died hundreds of years ago.

But Justin Renel Joseph is not naming Perugino (1446-1523), Tintoretto (1518-1594), or Francesco Granacci (1469-1543) in his lawsuit. Rather, the New York Post explains, Joseph is suing the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for including priceless works by Renaissance masters that depict Christ as a white man.

The masterpieces are “offensive aesthetic whitewashing” of the reality that the Savior, as a native of the Middle Eastern region, had “black hair like wool and skin of bronze color,” says Joseph, 33, who is acting as his own lawyer.

He says he suffered “personal stress” after viewing “The Holy Family with Angels” by Sebastiano Ricci; “The Resurrection” by Perugino; “The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes” by Tintoretto; and “The Crucifixion” by Francesco Granacci.

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They are especially offensive to him, he claims, because he himself has “black hair like wool and skin of bronze color.”

Detail from "The Crucifixion" (1510) by Francesco Granacci
“The Crucifixion” (1510) by Francesco Granacci

Joseph, who sounds pretty nuts, seems to believe that portraying Christ as a Causcasian was some sort of conspiracy to hurt the feelings of museum-goers five and six hundred years later. He told the Post:

They completely changed his race to make him more aesthetically pleasing for white people. I’m suing a public venue which by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can’t discriminate on a protected basis.

The Met has dignified the suite by noting that the paintings important both form an art historical and aesthetic perspective.

“When they were painted,” Met spokeswoman Elyse Topalian, offered by way of additional defense, “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.”

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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