It’s no secret that much of Western art—the kind that often ends up in places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art—features veritable oceans of white people. And while that’s not great overall, one Manhattan man is very angry at the Met for including four paintings in its collection that depict Jesus Christ as a blond-haired white man. Justin Renel Joseph is angry enough that he has filed a lawsuit against the museum, arguing that the four paintings are racist.
Joseph says the paintings—Sebastiano Ricci’s The Holy Family of Angels (~1700); Tintoretto’s The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (~1545-60); Francesco Granacci’s The Crucifixion (~1510); and Perugino’s The Resurrection (~1502)—are an “offensive aesthetic whitewashing.” He would like the pieces to be removed from the museum, according to Artnet News.
“I shouldn’t have to go into the Metropolitan Museum and see paintings for white people. It doesn’t make me feel good. I have a little daughter. I don’t want her to see this,” Joseph said. “This is the only art we se…it’s whites-only art.”
The Met is not interested in removing the paintings from their posts. “When they were painted, 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,” explained a spokesperson for the museum, Elyse Topalian.
Joseph is citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Titles II and VI of the Civil Rights act of 1964 to make his case. Joseph is representing himself in the case against the museum. But because the paintings represent an important part of history, albeit a white history, it’s unlikely that they will be removed from the Met. Simple because Mr. Joseph disagrees with the “whitewashing” of the history those paintings represent—and he is probably correct to disagree—does not necessarily warrant their removal.