An image of Jesus Christ announced as the Holy Week poster in Seville, Spain, caused negative reactions among conservative Catholics.
Created by Seville artist Salustiano Garcia, the poster shows Christ after his resurrection from the dead, half-naked in front of a red background, with the lower part of his body covered by a white cloth.
Critics of the art describe it as offensive, homoerotic, effeminate and sexualized.
“Holy Week is an important celebration with a long tradition in Spain in general, but with special emphasis on Andalusia and even more so in Seville, the capital of Andalusia”, describes Alicia Hernández, BBC Mundo reporter born in Almería, in the same region where Seville is located.
Hernandez describes the festival as a religious celebration, linked to tradition, but the processions, a type of parade where various religious images travel through the city, are attended by people of all backgrounds, with different social backgrounds.
“For Seville, it is one of the most important weeks in the city, as well as the April Feria (Seville Fair). It is not just a religious issue, there is also a strong tourist and economic component. To get an idea of how big it is, it’s very difficult to walk through Seville without coming across a procession during Holy Week.”
IPSE, an ultra-conservative Catholic organization that promotes “respect for Christian symbols” and opposes abortion, harshly criticized the image and demanded a public apology from the artist, saying his work was not in keeping with the spirit of the Week Santa.
On X (formerly Twitter), politician Javier Navarro, member of the radical right party Vox, joined the criticism saying that the poster “was intended to provoke” and does not help to “stimulate the participation of the faithful in Holy Week in Seville”.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Juan Espadas, leader of the Socialist Party of Spain in the southern region of Andalusia, spoke out in defense of the work, denouncing the “expressions of homophobia and hatred” it provoked and stating that it combined “tradition and modernity ” Of region.
“Something very curious happened,” comments Alicia Hernández.
“In the Seville Municipal Council, IU-Podemos, a left-wing coalition, tried to give official support to the poster and the artist. This may be considered strange given that left-wing groups do not normally get involved in issues related to Holy Week. The fact is that this support was stopped because Vox prevented it.”
According to the AFP news agency, the Council of Brotherhoods and Confraternities, responsible for the main events of Holy Week in the city located in southern Spain, also showed support, stating that the poster shows “the radiant side of Holy Week” in the “style purest of this prestigious painter”.
Salustiano Garcia, the Spanish artist who created the work, is 59 years old and graduated from the University of Seville. His profile described in an art gallery states that his works are inspired by the Renaissance, surrealism and the contemporary world, and move between themes of “religion, childhood, violence and gender”.
To the right-wing newspaper ABC, Salustiano Garcia described that the work was created with “deep respect” and stated that its representation of Christ was based on an image of his son in a “soft, elegant and beautiful” way.
He stated that to see sexuality in his image of Christ, “you have to be crazy”, insisting that there was nothing in his painting that “has not been represented in works of art dating back hundreds of years”.
Holy Week has been the subject of controversy in the past
Hernández recalls that this is not the first controversy that has arisen over changes to Holy Week in Seville.
“In 1984, for example, a poster made with different photographs was heavily criticized because it was not in accordance with ‘Sevillian tradition’.”
In 1995, another poster and its artist were criticized and banned because they drew the Giralda, a well-known monument in Seville, in the pupil of the Macarena, a much-loved and emblematic image of the Virgin.
“Today it is considered one of the most striking and representative posters.”
Criticism also arose when new music for bands to play in processions was released.
“All of this shows that whenever there is something different, something that some people consider out of the ordinary, criticism appears. Social media has fueled a lot of this.”
In an article on the website My Conversation, Chris Greenough, professor of Social Sciences at Edge Hill University (England), says that “although the use of religious characters such as Eve and Moses often goes unnoticed, advertisements that use the image of Jesus often cause protests.”
He states that Christianity “is an embodied religion, where beliefs are not simply spiritual, but are promulgated through and in the body.”
For the professor — who mentions the most recent case in Spain in the article —, some of the criticisms may “refer to the legacy of homophobia in certain conservative Christian contexts and the use of the Bible in this context.”
He states that the image under discussion has a “more obvious controversy that has not received attention.”
“Jesus, a Middle Eastern man with dark skin, was represented as white. The representation of Jesus as a white European is problematic,” he says.