Luxembourgish artist Deborah De Robertis, former member of Femen and well known for her nude performances – especially for her 2017 one in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre – created havoc in France in one of the most popular and visited shrines in the world, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. De Robertis, who is going to face trial in Tarbes in May 2019 for gross indecency, was charged with “sexual exhibitionism” after she stripped off, on the 1st of September, in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the famous grotto with her hands clasped as if in prayer as if she was a live projection of the Madonna wearing only a blue veil on her head.
The pilgrims, shocked and in disbelief, tried immediately to cover up the artist’s body and called the authorities reporting what, according to them, was actually a very blasphemous outrage. De Robertis’ intent was to incarnate the apparition of the Virgin in a woman’s body – “What would happen if the woman whose vulva was painted by Courbet embodied herself to get out of the frame and use the institution to her advantage and not the other way around? By embodying the female models my aim is to free them from the framework in which they are frozen and thus to reverse the point of view on the historical, political and artistic level” the artist said. Although the pilgrims and the catholic authorities condemn her act as a serious lack of respect for religious freedom, in disregard for the people present at the sanctuary and the families with children gathered in prayer, last year the artist was cleared of the sexual exhibitionism charges for her performance at the Louvre. The Paris court also acknowledged that the motivation for the offense was non-sexual in nature and that it had “no legitimacy in deciding what is or is not art”.
How will it end this time?
Claudia Di Palma