New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has refused to remove a 1938 painting by the artist known as Balthus that depicts a young girl in what some are saying is a sexually suggestive pose.
The painting , entitled "Therese Dreaming," shows the girl leaning back with her underwear visible. The late Polish-French artist, born Balthasar Klossowski, is known for his erotically-charged images of pubescent girls.
An online petition that had garnered thousands of signatures on Monday urged the museum to rethink its decision to display the painting in light of today's climate around sexual assault.
"Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children," the petition reads.
The petition's author, 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 to not remove the painting provides an opportunity to reflect on today's culture.
"Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression," Weine said.