A high school principal in Jacksonville, Florida has banned his teachers from showing an Early Renaissance painting of the Madonna and Child, claiming the Virgin Mary “doesn’t look happy enough” about experiencing the joy of motherhood. Governor Ron DeSantis quickly voiced his support for the principal, adding that Mary Magdalene “looks like a hooker.”
Randy McRandall, who has served as the principal of Jacksonville Central High School since 2021, announced his decision to remove Neroccio di Bartolomeo de’ Landi’s “Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene” (1495) from the curriculum in a school-wide email earlier this week. Citing the Virgin Mary’s “lack of enthusiasm,” he stated that the painting is “an assault on family values” that constitutes “a partisan attack on the pro-life movement.”
In a series of tweets, Governor DeSantis applauded the decision to ban the artwork. He specifically took issue with the artist’s representation of Mary Magdalene, who can be seen in the background to the right of St. John the Baptist, admitting that although he has not personally read the Bible, the way the figure is looking out at the viewer is “inappropriate.” (In 2017, the Vatican issued a press release in the hopes of clarifying that the Saint is not, as commonly thought, a sex worker.)
History teacher Eric White had intended to teach his students about the Italian Renaissance work in a special lecture dedicated to pre-1800s male artists, the only remaining module in the school’s art history curriculum, and wrote about the incident on his Facebook page. In his post, White mocked the principal’s notion of “family values” and his suggestion that the work contains pro-choice messaging, pointing out that the Madonna was a married virgin who not only carried her pregnancy to term but gave birth to Jesus Christ.
“You can’t make this shit up,” White said in response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment. The teacher has been dismissed from his post.
Update: April Fools!
Like all great April Fool pranks– just plausible enough to be believable.
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