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article imageReview: ‘Fig Leaf: The Biggest Cover-Up in History’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Aug 19, 2013 in Entertainment
London - This programme was first broadcast two and a half years ago, but the subject of nudity is usually entertaining, and censorship has never been more topical.
Some will find this programme fascinating; some will find it amusing; few will take offence. It sees presenter Stephen Smith taking a merry jaunt around public statues from Pimlico in South London to sunny Italy - nice work if you can get it - and talking to historian, archivist and sculptor alike.
By and large the programme speaks for itself, but did you know for instance that Michelangelo's famous statue of David is biblically inaccurate? You may also disagree with the assessment of art historian Professor Nelson that David was "the most virtuous man". Er, killing a man at a distance with a lethal weapon then hacking off his head? Some virtue.
Controversial though that may have been in 1504, it pales in comparison with a statue of the naked Jesus.
The fig leaf appears for the first time in the Book Of Genesis; after eating the apple from the tree of knowledge, Adam - and his temptress, Eve - realised that something would have to be done about their nakedness, even though there was no policeman to arrest them for indecency, so they made aprons of fig leaves.
The world has come a long way since then, and now a fig leaf need not be literal. The Victorians made a habit of covering up the genitalia of statues with them as had the Catholic Church before them, unless a work of art showed those with their kit off bound for the fires of Hell, in which case it was seen as perfectly acceptable, because it was the price they could expect to pay. The world has come a long way since then, or has it? Radical feminists are obsessed with banning female nudity, unless of course it is aimed at the lesbian market, in which case censorship becomes homophobia in the usual about-face. These statists don't get a mention here, and there is no real mention of state censorship either. There is another issue here, and that is taste; sure, the statue of David is a fine piece of craftsmanship, but when push comes to shove, does anyone really want to be hit in the face with either a gigantic phallus or a woman's hairy you-know-what in the middle of the high street?
Fig Leaf: The Biggest Cover-Up in History can currently be found on BBC iplayer, but will not be there for much longer, so if like Michaelangelo you have a thing about naked boys, grab it while you can.
More about sexual censorship, Nudity, statue of david, stephen smith
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