Modigliani’s Censored Nude Painting and Stephen Colbert’s Perfect Response

| November 30, 2015 | 6 Comments

Stephen Colbert Perfectly Mocks The Media’s Censorship of Nude Painting by Modigliani

A nude painting masterpiece called “Nu Couché” or “Reclining Nude,” by Amadeo Modigliani recently sold at a Christie’s auction for $170.4 million. This just became the 2nd most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. It was bought by a Chinese billionaire art collector.

The canvas painting was created in 1917-18 and features an image of a reclining nude woman. Its record sale made world headlines. TV news anchors all over the world were talking about it.

amedeo modigliani painter nude art

Amedeo Modigliani “Nu Couche” / Reclining Nude painting

Only one problem: This iconic work of art was censored and blurred by some news networks. Bloomberg TV, CNBC and The Financial Times* newspaper decided to obscure the woman’s breasts and pubic hair. Bloomberg TV hosts actually went so far as to say that the painting was “too racy” to be shown in its entirety.

Late night talk show host, Stephen Colbert, discovered that he too couldn’t show the uncensored painting on CBS. So in true Stephen Colbert fashion, he came out with a hilarious segment in response. During the segment, Colbert talked about the censorship of the painting. He also talked about CBS’s own absurd nudity censorship rules. See the whole segment:

Colbert points out that this isn’t the first time the news has “de-titillated art.” Back in May of this year, Fox News was ridiculed for censoring Picasso’s painting, “Les Femmes d’Alger” when reporting on its world record-breaking sale of $179.3 million at auction. Fox blurred all 8.5 breasts of the most expensive work of art ever sold.

During his segment, Colbert says this artistic censorship brings up important questions like:

“What is art? Where do we draw the line between art and pornography, and what if that line looks like a butt crack?”

We actually brought up these exact same questions when discussing Modigliani’s work in a past blog post. Modigliani has a history of being deemed too racy for public view. When “Nu Couché” made its art gallery debut in Paris in 1918, it caused so much public outcry that police shut the gallery exhibition down after one day!

Colbert proceeds to give examples of what he can and can’t show on CBS. It quickly becomes apparent that the network’s rules are just arbitrary nonsense.

He can show a Georgia O’Keefe flower painting (which is also a depiction of a vagina) with no issue. He can show only a distant picture of Michelangelo’s statue of David BUT for no more than two seconds.

georgia o keefe flower vagina nude painting censorship stephen colbert yna

Flower painting by Georgia O’Keefe


To illustrate the idiocy of this censorship policy, as the David picture disappears from the screen, Colbert says: “We’re all safe now. I just pray to God no one invents a way to pause TV.”

What can he not show on CBS? A simple drawing of two circles with two dots in the middle said to represent “female breasts.” (This reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon that brought down their Facebook page.) But if he adds a few more lines to this drawing to make a smiley face? Suddenly it’s okay!

nude painting modigliani censorship stephen colbert boobs drawing art yna

Stephen Colbert’s censored drawing of “female breasts” (two circles with two dots)

nude painting modigliani censorship stephen colbert boobs drawing art yna

Colbert adds a nose and a smile – presto, it can be shown uncensored!


I’m sure the same would hold if he just verbally relabeled his drawing saying, “These aren’t female breasts, these are actually two bicycle wheels.”

Can’t we at least Free the Nipple on classic fine art paintings?

The segment ends with Colbert stating that until the art vs porn debate is settled for television, he should “probably play it safe and stick with what’s allowed on network TV: police procedurals where they stack up dead hookers like cord wood.”

Murder, violence and dead hookers? America says bring it on! But the most expensive nude art masterpieces made by the some of the best artists who ever lived? Cover them up to protect our poor delicate eyes!

Once again we have a perfect example of true American values in all their twisted and screwed-up glory. Thank you, Stephen Colbert, for perfectly mocking this ridiculous censorship.

Note: *The Financial Times responded to this criticism by saying that as an international publisher, they had to censor the painting in certain countries in accordance with local laws. They’ve stated that it was displayed uncensored in most newspapers. But I say, this is not an excuse, and they should’ve just not run the story there, or kept the image out of those particular newspapers rather than tarnish this iconic art!

Young Naturists & Nudists America

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Category: Felicity's Nudist Blog, Art, Censorship

About the Author ()

Author of Felicity's Blog. Co-founder of Young Naturists America. 3rd-generation nudie. Avid reader. Feminist. 70% vegan, 30% vegetarian. When I'm not busy eating, I'm writing about naturism, censorship, topfree equality, body image and other fun topics. I like feedback, so plz leave a comment when you've got something to say!
  • richpasco It looks like you can edit comments if the administrator dashboard still has the option to change the default (it probably does). The Livefyre default is no comment editing.  I should check.

  • richpasco I fixed it for you. Only admins can edit their comments or others’ comments.

  • I meant “We don’t need …”  (can’t see how to edit my post).

  • influence culture wear less
    It would seem that we should all wear LESS clothing as a way to preserve our freedoms.  We done need those who find natural human bodies offensive.

  • But… there was a dot that might have been a nipple, and a dark area that might have been pubic hair!  The SHAME of it all!