The painting of a 19th-century white slave auction, appears on an anti-Muslim campaign poster.
The Museum has called on the AfD party to withhold from using an image of a Jean-Léon Gérôme painting, ostensibly because the campaign has focused on the historic white slave trade in North Africa.
The campaign, funded by the Alternative for Germany party, features the 1866 painting “Slave Market” with the caption, “So that Europe won’t become Eurabia.”
The work, an oil painting features an enslaved white European woman being probed by Middle Eastern or North African men. One of the men, dressed in traditional garb, known as an Abaya, is seen inspecting the young girl’s teeth.
In its own description of the work of art, the museum writes on its home page that “this disturbing scene is set in a courtyard market intended to suggest the Near East. The vague, distant location allowed 19th-century French viewers to censure the practice of slavery, which was outlawed in Europe, while enjoying a look at the female body”.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has used the image of the painting on their posters displayed across the German capital with the slogan: “So that Europe won’t become Eurabia.” It is Germany’s largest opposition party and the third largest party in the Bundestag after the 2017 election.
The AfD’s Berlin branch said they put up 30 posters of the painting across the German capital and added that it will not take down any of the posters.
“We strongly condemn the use of the painting to advance AfD’s political stance and have written to them insisting that they cease and desist,” said Olivier Meslay, the director of the Clark Art Institute, in a statement. “We are strongly opposed to the use of this work to advance any political agenda.”
But Meslay acknowledged that the museum can not stop the German party from using the image since the painting is in the public domain. Instead he appealed to “civility”.
“There are no copyrights or permissions that allow us to exert control over how it is used other than to appeal to civility on the part of the AfD Berlin,” he said.
Ronald Glaeser, a spokesman for the Berlin chapter of the AfD rejected the the museum’s request, describing it as “a futile attempt to silence the AfD”.
He added: “The German public has the right to find out about the truth about the possible consequences of illegal mass immigration.” Glaeser said “the museum should be grateful that we’re helping to increase the degree of popularity of this painting — instead of trying to use censorship”.
Glaeser told the Associated Press that opponents of his party have been continually destroying this and other campaign posters in Berlin, forcing party workers to repeatedly put up new copies, only to see them destroyed again the following night.
In November last year, the party proposed to repatriate half a million Syrian refugees back to their country of origin, because the war had ended.
Earlier, the AfD in Solingen, Germany, had suggested on Twitter that Islamic extremists were behind the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, tweeting that “attacks on Christian landmarks will massively increase in coming years, and we all know why”.
Currently, the AfD is polling at 10-12 percent for the European elections. Other campaign posters feature an open toll gate at a border control reading: “One thing is sure: our borders are not secure.”