Belgian Model Poses Nude in Front of Western Wall as Part of Art Exhibition

The model Marisa Papen was previously detained in Egypt after posing naked in front of religious site

Jerusalem's Old City and the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

A Belgian model who had been detained by police in Egypt for posing naked in front of old temples did so again near the Western Wall in Jerusalem for an exhibition that opened recently in her native country.

The photo of Marisa Papen, 26, sunbathing naked on a terrace of a private residence overlooking the Western Wall plaza is on sale in a gallery in the Belgian beach resort of Knokke, the HLN news site reported last week. It’s part of an exhibition titled “Frank Rose – Will Take Cash for Art.”

Titled “Road to Liberation,” the photo has Papen reclining in a plastic chair with her eyes closed. The picture’s perspective has her naked body serve as the foreground to the women’s section of the Western Wall, which some believe to be the holiest site to Judaism.

The picture does not include any part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, which towers over the Western Wall plaza and would have been prominently visible from the photographer’s point of view.

“For all the picture’s alleged provocative nature, I think it was edited out,” said Michael Freilich, editor-in-chief of the Joods Actueel Jewish paper. “I guess they don’t want too much controversy.”

Screenshot from photographer Mathias Lambrecht's Instagram account

But the picture’s photographer, Mathias Lambrecht, denied this. “The picture is uncropped. The mosque was not in the frame. Nothing to edit out,” he told JTA. Another picture featuring in his invitation to the opening of the exhibition had Papen climbing the mast of an Israeli flag in the nude.

Papen was detained in Egypt last year for 24 hours for posing nude at the Karnak Temple Complex.

Freilich said Belgian Jews were indifferent to the incident. “Art and nudity have been intertwined for centuries, there’s nothing new here,” he said. “The question is whether art remains art when it involves cash and a conscious attempt to provoke and shock.”

The Foundation for the Heritage of the Western Wall in Israel wrote in a statement Tuesday that “this is a serious and grave incident.”

The Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch, said: “This is an unfortunate, awkward and serious incident that unfortunately offends those who worship at this sacred location.”