A poster promoting Ski World Cup women’s races has come under an avalanche of criticism for its choice of a naked woman as the main feature.
The offending painting shows a nude image of a female skier jumping over some animal heads while a moon with eyes looks between the woman’s legs.
Austria’s Semmering resort is using the painting to promote two days of races for the world cup this month.
Many on social media, however, objected to the portrayal of female athletes.
The painting was commissioned from artist Christian Ludwig Attersee, who has painted similar promotional material for the races in previous years. But this year’s rendition has been criticised more widely.
It comes after a year in which multiple allegations emerged of sexual assault and even rape among Austria’s female skiers, going back decades. The accusations, reported in Austrian and German media and involving at least one well-known coach, caused an uproar earlier in the year.
Former Austrian Olympic skier Nicola Werdenigg, whose revelation that she was raped at age 16 prompted an investigation, labelled the Semmering poster “sexist”.
Writing about it on social media, she complained that the races at Semmering had been advertised with Attersee’s work for years – and that the pose is less than athletic, with crossed skis making a fall certain.
“Finally, the completely uncalled for sexist subject, that also depicts a beginner’s fall, is being discussed more publicly,” she tweeted.
“A fallen woman, lying naked in the snow, is just not suitable as an advertisement for a World Cup race, even if the artist interprets this pose differently,” she added.
Journalist Corinna Millborn also poured scorn on the design.
“What professional skiers are: Extremely brave. Concentrated. Trained. Combative, with bite and the will to win,” she tweeted, along with an image of the painting, and the comment “how skiers will be presented in 2018 on a poster officially commissioned by the province of Lower Austria.”
But others defended Attersee’s work as an artist, pointing to a history of paintings in a similar style – including one featuring a naked male skier which was made into a postage stamp in 1999. It was even presented by regional governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who thanked Attersee for his work.
Austria’s ski federation told the German press agency DPA that despite the outcry over the painting, the posters would not be removed unless the artist agreed.
A statement provided to Austrian newspaper Der Standard from the Semmering resort said that it regretted any offence caused, and there was no intent to hurt feelings.
The newspaper also quoted Attersee defending his design, saying he considered it “a work of art for the public, in which the strength, independence and self-confidence of women is shown positively.”
The skiing world cup is a lengthy competition, split into a large number of different events at different venues. The Semmering resort will host the women’s slalom and giant slalom on 28-29 December.