A Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind
"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Matthew 15:14
There is a pale square of eggshell white, an empty space where Bruegel used to be.
It has been removed from the museum, just as many statues, books, speakers, and other artworks have been toppled or torn, ripped from the roots, from city squares or libraries or galleries. The patrons of the historical sites of Naples must learn that their education and edification cannot come at the cost of anyone's hurt feelings.
The image of umbrage is The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind, a five century old work by the Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. His inspiration was from the gospel of Matthew, when the good Lord warned us about following the dictates of those who didn't know the truth, or weren't even looking for it. The source alone is objectionable to many!
In the painting, assorted men stumble each after one another, grasping and falling on their way. Their eyes are sick or glassy, or not there at all, as if plucked clean by crows, concave sockets, sight hollowed from heads with a cantaloupe baller.
The painting is offensive to people who are blind, or who otherwise identify that way, who might not approve the parallels implied about seeing, the pitfalls of spiritual sightlessness and its insinuated struggles. Peasants and farmers are also furious: this classist assault on the poor and their allies must be erased from memory. Hindus or Jews might be upset by work depicting the New Testament, and the atheists, too, are sick and tired of being force fed life lessons from fairy tale books. Human rights activist groups have asked that all opprobrious religious artwork be removed from the galleries, and curators have their work cut out for them ahead, as forklifts must be brought in to remove countless tons of artefacts from all over the world. All ancient Indian art, all African ritual art, all European Christian art must be tossed onto a bonfire so that aggressions, both micro and intended, can burn in hell. There will surely be some suitably secular moral illustrations from the last two decades that can fill in for the more than ten millennia that human creativity was tainted with faithful delusions.
Some sources report that women are also upset by the piece and have asked to have it destroyed- it looks like the work might have been painted by a man.
In an interview with the Washington Post, the museum director shared her perspective. "At first, we considered replacing this dangerous work with an appropriate painting from the era or from local contemporary talents. This proved difficult as a staggering number of submissions and backroom stock were equally offensive, if not more so. We thought leaving the blank space was a wonderful statement. And when we overheard a patron expressing how moved she was by the empty wall, we decided to leave it blank with nothing to see. With nothing to look at and nothing to see, it's a safe space for everyone."
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette C. Luzajic is a visual artist, writer, and editor of The Ekphrastic Review.
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