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A sexy Jesus? Easter poster stirs controversy

A controversy has ensued in Spain and on social media over a poster of Jesus created to promote Easter week festivities in the city of Seville — drawing mixed reactions from Spanish conservatives deeming the image an “aberration” and a “sexualized and effeminate” Jesus as well as from social media users who either defended the painter’s artistic vision or created memes poking fun at the image.

The Council of Brotherhoods, which organizes the main Easter week events in Seville, commissioned renowned artist Salustiano García months ago to create a painting promoting the celebration.

García unveiled the final product Saturday during an event attended by leadership of the Council of Brotherhoods in Seville as well as the city’s mayor, José Luis Sanz.

The painter told local media at the time that his version of a resurrected Jesus painted against a flat red background was modeled after his son, Horacio. García’s work was met with high appraisals and applauses during the painting’s unveiling.

In speaking with media following the event, Horacio said that he heard of people saying his father’s portrayal of Jesus was “very attractive. … Thank you very much. That’s all I have to say.”

Artist Salustiano Garcia poses with his son and model Horacio in front of the painting.
Artist Salustiano García with his son and model, Horacio, in front of his painting of Jesus created to promote Easter week festivities in Seville.Cristina Quicler / AFP – Getty Images

But criticism erupted following the event.

Javier Navarro of the far-right Vox party in Spain said on the social media platform X that the poster “sought to provoke” and did not advance the mission of “encouraging faithful participation in Seville’s Holy Week.”

Pablo Hertfelder García-Conde, president of the religious freedom organization IPSE, known for its ultraconservative Catholic views, said on X that “the poster is offensive” and an aberration and “does not correspond to what Holy Week in Seville symbolizes.”

An organization of Christian lawyers launched a petition requesting the removal of the poster and the resignation of the Francisco Vélez, the president of the Council of Brotherhoods.

The petition has garnered more than 21,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

In response to the criticism, the painter told the Spanish newspaper ABC that his portrayal of Jesus was “gentle, elegant and beautiful” and created with “deep respect.”

“To see sexuality in my image of Christ, you must be sick,” he said, insisting there was “nothing” in his painting that “has not already been represented in artworks dating back hundreds of years.”

One user on X responded to the backlash, saying, “Prepare for the homophobia that the Seville Holy Week poster is going to unleash.”

Rafa López, a well-known Spanish sociologist and political scientist, also responded to critics, saying on a news program, “Those who are scandalized by the Holy Week poster in Seville do so not because it is a tradition, but because they are deeply racist and homophobic.”

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