The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has refused to remove a 1938 painting by the artist known as Balthus who represents a girl in what some say is a sexually suggestive pose.
The painting, titled Therese Dreaming, shows the girl sitting in a reclining chair with her underwear visible. The late Polish-French artist, born Balthasar Klossowski, is known for his erotic images of pubescent girls.
An online petition that had garnered thousands of signatures on Monday urged the museum to reconsider its decision to exhibit the painting in light of the current climate around sexual assault.
"Given the current climate around sexual assault and the accusations that become more public every day, by showing this work to the masses, The Met is romanticism voyeurism and the objectification of children," the petition says.
The author of the petition, Mia Merrill, suggested that the painting be replaced by one created by a female artist of the same period.
Museum spokesman Ken Weine said the decision not to remove the painting provides an opportunity to reflect on today's culture.
"Moments like this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have to reflect on both the past and the present and encourage the continuous evolution of the existing culture through a discussion informed and respect for creative expression, "said Weine.