Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mary, Mary

Did you hear about the December issue of Playboy México whose cover features a topless model depicting the Virgin Mary? The model's name is María Florencia Onori and she stands before a stained glass window with a beatific expression on her face, nude except for the white mantle draped over her head and half covering her breasts. Meanwhile the headline reads "Te Adoramos, María" ("We adore you, Mary").

Surprisingly, this cover generated a lot of controversy. Playboy Enterprises Inc., which is based in Chicago, disavowed the cover image saying that Playboy México is produced by a licensee and that the company did not approve or endorse its contents adding that ""while Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies." Right... who could have imagined people would find this offensive? It's not like the cult of the Virgin Mary is big in Mexico or anything.

Meanwhile, the publisher of Playboy México, Raul Sayrols, claimed "the image is not and never was intended to portray the Virgin of Guadalupe or any other religious figure. The intent was to reflect a Renaissance-like mood on the cover." Wow, such bullshit. I mean, come on: I think that for anyone with a passing familiarity with the Christian religion or Western Civilization the first things that comes to mind when you look at that cover is clearly Mary the Mother of Jesus. Obviously Playboy México's publishers were aiming to stir up some publicity (and it worked!).

While we're on the subject of Mary, you may know that I was raised Catholic. In Catholicism the figure of Mary is arguably just as prominent and revered as that of Jesus. I remember hearing that when people converted to Christianity, strong pre-Christian cults centered around mother goddesses (such as Isis) were transferred to the devotion of Mary. Likewise, some experts argue that the Black Madonnas, medieval depictions of Mary and the infant Jesus with dark skin, harken back to pre-Christian mother goddess iconography. Of the many epithets given to Mary (e.g. Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, Virgin, Queen of Heaven) my favorite is the Greek "Theotokos" (Θεοτόκος) which literally means "God-bearer."

And as far as blasphemous depictions go, this Playboy cover pales in comparison to the surreal artist Max Ernst's (1891-1976) awesomely sacrilegious painting The Virgin Chastises the infant Jesus before Three Witnesses (1926).

Images: December 2008 cover of Playboy Mexico found on hollywoodgrind.com, The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses: A.B., P.E. and the Artist by Max Ernst (1926) can be found in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne/Köln.


nola32 said...

ohh, and ernst is so my fave artist, too. way to give him a shout-out. nobody ever talks about him and he really does deserve so much more praise than i feel he gets (and not just for his blasphemy).

and i totally agree. there are as yet undiscovered tribes in papua new guinea who would see that cover and with a series of clicks and other sounds which would be untranslatable (as these people had only JUST been discovered) would say, 'holy blasphemers, batman! that's a naked virgin mary!'

Meeg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meeg said...

Oh yeah Ernst's awesome. I also particularly like The Robing of the Bride