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Rakewell

When Facebook nixed a naughty Neptune

5 January 2017

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

To Bologna, setting for the latest in a succession of recent social media censorship controversies. When Italian art historian Elisa Barbari uploaded an image of the Fountain of Neptune in the city’s Piazza del Nettuno to Facebook, she was surprised to receive a message from the website describing her snap of Giambologna’s mannerist masterpiece as ‘explicitly sexual’, and therefore in violation of Facebook’s rules.

Presumably, the platform’s prudish object recognition software, which automatically censors nudity, had singled out the monumental naked Neptune who towers over the fountain, brandishing a giant trident.

But did the software know more than it let on? After all, Bolognese schoolboys have been titillated by Giambologna’s fountain for generations. For when viewed from a certain angle, the deity’s nudity has long seemed all the more, erm, prominent.

Wikimedia Commons

Facebook has now apologised for the error, saying that censorship of the image was a mistake. For future reference, the Rake directs it to blogger Marco Barone’s helpful post on ‘la prospettiva fallica’ of inadvertently proud statuary…

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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