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More than 22,000 people have signed a petition protesting against a “homoerotic” painting of semi-naked Jesus commissioned to celebrate Easter week in the Andalusian city of Seville, signalling the start of a new culture war in Spain.

The religious Council of Brotherhoods, which organises the Easter events, asked the artist Salustiano García to create a painting promoting the celebrations this spring. García told local press that his version of a resurrected Jesus painted against a flat red background is based on his son, Horacio.

The petition against García’s work has been organised by an association called the Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers, which is described online as “a national civil foundation that defends the values ​​inspired by Christianity in the legal field”. The signatories are calling for the image to be removed and demanding the resignation of Francisco Vélez, the president of the Council of Brotherhoods. The council was contacted for comment.

“Those who see something dirty in the painting are only projecting their own internal dirt onto the image. I wanted to focus on the most luminous part [of Easter], the Resurrection. And then be faithful to my style, which is to work with people, with living beings and not copy images,” García told the UK newspaper, the Times.

Meanwhile, Javier Navarro, the leader of the Seville branch of the far-right Vox party, wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “It is not about artistic tastes, it is about the poster fulfilling the purpose for which it is intended; it [does not encourage] the devout participation of the faithful in Holy Week in Seville. It is evident that this poster was seeking provocation and the council [of brotherhoods] has allowed it.”

But LGBTQ+ advocacy groups defended Garciá. Movil Chile, a Chilean campaign group, posted on X that “homophobia erupts in Seville because anti-[gay] rights groups considered that an image of Jesus created by the artist Salustiano García is too effeminate and gay”.

The journalist Ben Lawrence, writing in the UK newspaper the Telegraph, points out however that “artistic depictions of Jesus Christ have, since the Renaissance, erred towards the risqué. At first, influenced by neo-Classical ideas, and thus appreciative of ancient Greek art in all its glorious nudity, artists sought to make Jesus a glowing figure of taut muscle and sinew—someone to adore, but also someone to objectify.” Lawrence cites Caravaggio’s Incredulità di San Tommaso (around 1601-02), adding that Christ’s “physicality dominates the work”.

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