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Picabia painted The Fig-Leaf using glossy household paint over another work entitled Hot Eyes. The original painting, which was based on a technical drawing of a turbine brake, caused a scandal when submitted for an important Paris exhibition in 1921. The figure in the new image is derived from Oedipus and the Sphinx (1808), a neo-classical painting by Ingres, with Picabia’s addition of a fig-leaf (the French say ‘vine leaf’) as a reference to censorship. The inscription DESSIN FRANÇAIS (‘French drawing’) sarcastically mocked the contemporary revival of interest in traditional art skills.

July 2008