The Pontifical Council for Culture has abandoned its Man Ray bondage illustration "Venus Restored" and replaced it with an illustration of a dark 15th-century painting, "Madonna of the Dry Tree" by Flemish artist Petrus Christus.
Now used on the council's website to illustrate the working document for its Feb. 4-7 event "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference," the painting once belonged to an upper-crust confraternity its artist joined in an effort to attract wealthy patrons.
The council website, responding to widespread complaints about the Man Ray sculpture depicting a headless, armless, legless woman bound in ropes, on behalf of its president, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, originally posted the comment: "Some complaints have reached the dicastery concerning the image above. While acknowledging the anger, Cardinal Ravasi has chosen not to remove the image as it speaks clearly for one of the central points of the document: many women, alas, are still struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless)."
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After continued criticism of the bondage illustration (including in three columns by NCR's Phyllis Zagano: "What are they thinking at the Vatican?" "Planet Vatican" and "The Twilight Zone"), the council removed the original illustration and Ravasi's defense, replacing it with an illustration of the tiny painting of Mary standing on a dead tree trunk surrounded by dead branches and holding the Christ child.