Washington lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta -- Tony being the brother of former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta -- have found a surefire way to titillate The Washington Post: They take their friendship with Hillary Clinton and their ownership of a photograph called Soliloquy VII, and combine the two.
Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, is a senator from New York who is running for president. Soliloquy VII, as described in the Post Style section on Tuesday, is "an 8-foot-tall color photo of a nude man lying on his back." It is the product of a female British photographer named Sam Taylor-Wood.
The photo previously enjoyed a prominent place in the living room of the Podestas Washington, D.C., home. When the Podestas held a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton two weeks ago, however, neither the photo nor Mrs. Clinton made an appearance. "The candidate was missing and so was the infamous artwork -- which led to whispers that the picture was deemed unsuitable for a presidential campaign," the Post's Reliable Source column reported beside a strategically obscured reproduction of the photo.
Podesta denied the whispers, explaining that the photo was in routine storage "to prevent fading," and vowed to bring Mrs. Clinton and the naked man together again -- once she is president. "We are resting it for the presidential campaign but bringing it out for the inaugural ball," he said.
Mrs. Clinton made an earlier appearance with the photo when the Podestas held a fund-raiser for her senatorial campaign. "She teases me about it all the time," Podesta bragged to the Post.
In fact, this was not the first Style Section piece featuring the Podestas, their massive naked-man photo and Mrs. Clinton.
In 2004, the Post published an article, "Married, With Art," that explained the Podestas' art-collecting philosophy and described a number of the works they have exhibited not only in their Washington, D.C., home but also in their second home in the Lake Barcroft neighborhood of Fairfax County, Va. Once again, Mrs. Clinton and Soliloquy VII figured prominently."Tony and Heather don't shy away from discomfort -- especially when they can inflict it, ever so gently, on others," reported the Post.
"Steeped in liberal politics, Tony favors art with in-your-face nudity and social critique," the paper said.
The 8-foot naked-man photo, of course, is one example of this. "Though often politely ignored, 'Soliloquy VII' is rarely forgotten," the Post reported in 2004. "Tony and Heather love it. They crane their necks to hear the whispers generated when the pols stop in. Tony often uses the work to launch into a story about Hillary Clinton's visit, when she ducked and tiptoed around the work lest any photo opportunity capture her alongside the naked figure."
Had that fund-raiser been in the Podesta's Virginia home, Mrs. Clinton would have needed to be careful where she tiptoed, otherwise she might have been photographed in a bedroom with naked teenagers.
Don't worry: These were "documentary-style" naked teenagers.
"Folks attending a house tour in the Lake Barcroft neighborhood in Falls Church earlier this year got an eyeful when they walked into a bedroom at the Podesta residence hung with multiple color pictures of Katy Grannan, a photographer known for documentary-style pictures of naked teenagers in their parents' suburban homes," the Post playfully reported. "'They were horrified,' Heather recalls, a grin spreading across her face."
The 8-foot naked-man photo is not "documentary-style," however. It is reportedly a modernization of painter Andrea Mantegna's 1480 devotional work "The Lamentation of the Dead Christ," which depicts the Virgin Mary, accompanied by Mary Magdalene and John the Apostle, weeping over the body of Mary's crucified Son. The Post said in 2004 that the Podestas' photo "is an update of a late-15th century painting of the dead Jesus. Taylor-Wood faithfully replicates the original's composition, here photographing, in vivid color and minute detail, a young man laid out on his back. Just one thing: Taylor-Woods omits the shroud, displaying his (sic) subject in all his nakedness."
And, by the Post's own depiction, the Podestas don't treat it like a devotional icon.
No matter what reason Mrs. Clinton had for not attending her latest fund-raiser in the Podesta's private photo gallery of a home, the fact that it took place says at least two things: Many years after she first dodged being caught there with a naked man, she didn't mind exposing her supporters to the Podestas' art collection.
And: This election is about a lot more than just our economy and our national security. It is about our culture, too.