Published  05/11/2001

Lush countess banned from tube for bare bosom


Well, in a manner of speaking. Viacom Outdoor vets all advertising for London Underground. It was announced that an uncovered breast and nipple would not be accepted for the National Portrait Gallery’s poster advertising the ‘Painted Ladies’ exhibition, (even if the Countess of Oxford does show great decorum in Sir Peter Lely’s portrait, as if the offending exposure just happened naturally, rather than as a result of a deliberate pose). So natural indeed is Lely’s 17th century portrait, that when used as long ago as 1978, it was accepted in good grace by London Underground. Diana Kirke, Countess of Oxford had been there before (and had been around a bit in her time too). This time an alternative portrait of the Duchess of Richmond, dressed to the nines, has had to be substituted. The title of the exhibition is somewhat provocative, ‘Painted Ladies’ somewhat in the mode of ‘Rembrandt’s Women’. But these are Charles II’s women, and presumably in these neo-Cromwellian times, a damning social and political sub-text is required.

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