In 2006, I attended an interview with Robert Rauschenberg in conjunction with his Combines show at the Met. (I forget the curator’s name that interviewed him.) His piece, Canyon – inspired in part by Rembrandt’s Ganymede, was in the show and the accompanying text explained that perhaps the pillow hanging from the bottom of the canvas was in reference to the boy’s buttocks as he was being lifted by the eagle in Ganymede. I sent a card to the front of the auditorium for the Q & A session. My question/comment was that “I don’t like it when curators speculate as to what an artist was thinking. In this case, he is sitting right here with us. Why don’t you ask him what he meant?” During the interview, I noticed the curator had pulled one card aside and kept it separate from the rest. To my surprise, it was my card. She did indeed ask him what he meant with the pillow and he said, in essence “No, there was no intent to mirror the buttocks. The painting simply didn’t seem finished and it needed something to ground it. I had the pillow in my studio and so I tied it to the bottom of the canvas and it worked.”
I am happy to say, that the next time I saw the painting, there was no reference to the pillow or the buttocks in the accompanying text. The painting is now in the collection of MOMA.