Opinion Brief

The 'obviously offensive' image of Michelle Obama's face on a slave's body

A Spanish magazine's provocative cut-and-paste job enrages much of the internet — even as the artist insists that her intentions were innocent

The image: The cover of the latest issue of Spain's Magazine de Fuera de Serie provocatively features an image of First Lady Michelle Obama's face on the body of a bare-breasted slave. (See the cover at right and below.) The image of the slave was taken from Portrait d'une negresse, a painting by French artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist that was completed in 1800, six years after France's abolition of slavery. Many experts say the original painting "is meant to symbolize emancipation and empowerment," says Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker, and the article accompanying the image — titled "Michelle Granddaughter of a Slave, Lady of America" — is reportedly a glowing tribute to Obama. Still, the cover, designed by artist Karine Percheron-Daniels, managed to offend swaths of the internet.

The reaction: Because the image is "so obviously offensive, the mind attempts to rationalize" whether something was lost in translation, says Althea Legal-Miler at Clutch. But make no mistake: The "image has nothing to do with acknowledging Obama's enslaved foremothers, and everything to do with reinforcing and extending the historical denial of black women's individuality and agency." And even if the image is meant to be a commentary on the progress of racial attitudes, it "hardly seems a good excuse for depicting the First Lady as both sexualized and enslaved" on a magazine cover, says Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky. Percheron-Daniels claims that Obama would "love" the cover, but the controversial artist, who has several other works that hijack images of famous people, could very well just be seeking attention, says Victoria Cavaliere at New York's Daily News. Judge for yourself:

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