Another Perspective

All [J. Smith] ever paints are pastoral landscapes. But years after Smith’s Lake Placid is bought and exhibited by a very conservative museum, an art critic discovers that by tilting the painting 90 degrees, it can be seen as a painting of a devil embracing two nudes. The critic calls this aspect Ménage. The enraged artist protests that he had never intended to paint the lewd picture, that his painting is a realistic representation of Lake Placid and nothing more, and that the critic’s interpretation is illegitimate.

Is Ménage a work of art? If so, is it a work by Smith? Can Ménage be a better painting than Lake Placid (or vice versa)? Or is this painting neither Lake Placid nor Ménage? Would you, as the conservative curator, remove the painting?

— Eddy Zemach of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, posed in Margaret P. Battin et al., Puzzles About Art, 1989