The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has decided not to take down a Balthus painting of a young girl, Thérèse Dreaming (1938), that an online petition calls “sexually suggestive”. The work depicts Balthus’s favoured model and neighbour, Thérèse Blanchard, who was 12 or 13 years old at the time, reclining with her underwear visible. “The artist… had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls, and it can be strongly argued that this painting romanticises the sexualisation of a child,” writes the New York resident Mia Merrill, who started the petition on the website Care2 on 30 November. It has since gathered more than 8,600 supporters.
The petition continues: “Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses without providing any type of clarification, the Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children.”