A petition, started by one Mia Merrill and signed by nearly 10,000 supporters, has demanded that New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art remove Polish French artist Balthus' 1938 painting Thérèse Dreaming from its exhibits.
According to the petition, the painting is an "evocative portrait of a prepubescent girl relaxing on a chair with her legs up and underwear exposed".
The petition goes on to state that the artist "had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls and that his "painting romanticizes the sexualization of a child".
The writer contends that given "the current climate around sexual assault and allegations"....the Met "is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children".
An editorial piece in the Washington postargues against the petition. While acknowledging that this is a "difficult and emotional conversation to be had about Balthus' work", the author argues that now is "not the time to start removing art from walls, books from shelves, music from the radio or films from distribution".
The article recommends that more efforts be directed towards the focus be directed more towards the social structures that have perpetuated the abuse and the people who commit it.
It contends that sexual abuse must be fought "without losing all that was gained during the sexual liberation of the last century".
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on its part, has decided to retain the painting.