Awhile back a good friend gave me a beautiful book called "Great Women of the Bible in Art and Literature" by Dorothee Soelle and Joe H. Kirchberger. It is a beautiful collection of insights on about a dozen women from the Bible complete with paintings of how these women have been portrayed in art throughout the centuries. I've really enjoyed it. Yet as I was flipping through it with my husband he pointed about that we would probably have to hide this book from our son when he got older because it had some naked women in it.
One of the pictures that he was concerned with is Jan Massys, "Judith" painted in the 14th century. It portrays Judith, a woman mentioned in the apocrypha, totally bare chested, wrapped in a scarlet cloth and holding the severed head of the general Holofernes (if you want to read the whole story it is fantastic). There is also Theodore Chasseriau's Esther which depicts a very bare chested and beautiful Esther getting ready for her night with the King.
Now my question is, "Are these appropriate pictures to have in my home?" It isn't like I'm hanging them on the wall, but if my son ever wanted to he could pick this book up and stare at these painting all he wanted. Will a naked woman, even if it is a 400 year-old painting, just be a naked woman to a 10 year-old boy and should I be concerned about having pictures like this around where one day he can find them? (Keep in mind he is 2 and half right now so I'm not super worried about it... yet).
Personally I think these paintings are beautiful and I don't think that the intent of the artists were at all pornographic. I believe their intent in showing these women bare chested was to emphasize their femininity and their power. Up until the last century it was very common for women to bare their chests while breastfeeding and breasts back then would have equated femininity and maternity whereas today they equate sex. Still, if this was a photograph instead of a painting there would be NO way I would tolerate it in my home. I would consider it pornography.
So where do we draw the line between art and pornography? Is there a difference or it is all relative?
I'd really love to hear what you think or what has been your experience.