Israeli School for the Gifted Censors Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Vitruvian Man'

Parents who inquired why the picture was covered up were told 'long discussions had been conducted on the matter'

The modest version of Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man," with the "fig leaf" used by the center for gifted children in Ra'anana, June 11, 2018.

An educational center in central Israel censored a legendary Leonardo da Vinci artwork by covering up the genitals of “Vitruvian Man” during an event, in order not to offend religious schoolchildren.

Ra’anana Municipality, which is responsible for the center, said the artwork was placed in a space that was being used to photograph children, which was why part of the work was covered with a cloth.

The center held its event to mark the end of the school year on Monday, with the theme being “Italy.” A number of “stations” were set up, including films, artistic activities and pictures.

The Leonardo da Vinci original.
Wikimedia Commons/Luc Viatour

The most prominent was set up at the entrance: A cardboard figure of “Vitruvian Man” with the head cut out – allowing people to place their heads in it and get their photograph taken.

But the eventual figure was not an exact copy of the original, since the center director decided to cover Vitruvian Man’s genitals with a small green cloth, shaped like the proverbial fig leaf.

Gifted children centers in most communities are under the auspices of both the Education Ministry and the local council. The one in Ra’anana serves elementary schoolchildren who have been accepted to programs for gifted students. Both religious and nonreligious students use the center.

Parents who inquired why the picture was covered up were told “long discussions had been conducted on the matter.” It seems the explanation was that the center’s director wanted to take into account the concerns of religious pupils at the center. 

A number of other cases of “censorship” undertaken in order not to offend religious sensibilities have been reported over recent months, including covering up a display on evolution at the Natural History Museum in Jerusalem when ultra-Orthodox school trips visited the museum.

The city said the Da Vinci artwork was used to photograph the children as a memento, so the “private parts were covered. This is not a work of art or a sculpture that stands on its own, but a device for photographing souvenirs as part of the activities set up as part of the party for the end of the school year.”