Facebook angers Flanders with Rubens ban

Image caption,
The offending painting is housed in The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

The Flanders Tourist Board has written an open letter protesting against Facebook's "cultural censorship" of adverts showing paintings by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

The removed ad featured the artist's The Descent from the Cross, which shows a bare-chested Jesus.

Following the ban, the authority made a satirical video with fake investigators ushering visitors out of a museum after they looked at similar paintings.

Facebook has not yet responded.

The letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was signed by the chief executive of Visit Flanders, Peter de Wildes, and supported by a network of museums and cultural institutions.

It reads: "The bare breasts and buttocks painted by our artist are considered by you to be inappropriate.

"Even though we secretly have to laugh about it, your cultural censorship is making life rather difficult for us.

"After all, we want to use your platform to promote both our Flemish masters as well as Flanders - because art lovers use Facebook too.

"If Peter Paul Rubens had created a Facebook account in his lifetime, he would have had an extraordinary number of people following his fan page."

The letter asks Facebook to rethink its policy on what is allowed to be published.

The Flanders Tourist Board is currently attempting to attract more visitors to its Flemish Master Project, which puts the spotlight on the famous 15th Century artists in the region.

Poking fun at Facebook, the tourist board also posted a satirical video on YouTube showing tourists at the Rubens House, in Antwerp, being ushered away from paintings featuring nudity.

In the video, fake inspectors remove those who admit to having a profile on the social network, explaining that they have to be protected "against nudity even if artistic in nature, including paintings that feature individual body parts such as abs, buttocks or cleavage".

Facebook does allow images of nude paintings on its site but has tougher rules for adverts which must not contain nudity, or implied nudity, even if that is artistic in nature.