Montreal's public transit authority is refusing to let Les Grands Ballets Canadiens put up an advertisement in the city's Metro system for its upcoming show, saying the image could incite violence.

The poster depicts a woman in a blood-covered white outfit, with a nail protruding from her foot. 

The image was inspired by the theme of the show Stabat Mater, which focuses on the "unbearable pain that a woman feels" following the loss of her child, said Les Grands Ballets.

"In the present case, it was found that the poster could incite violence, notably because of blood and the nail in the foot," said STM spokesperson Amélie Regis in an email, adding that Les Grands Ballets was invited to submit another image.

"It's important to understand that the STM transports a large and diverse public, and we are sensitive to this reality."

​The image was rejected by the STM in late August after it was submitted by the ad agency, Astral Out of Home, said Les Grands Ballets. Astral said that its other partners are running the ad.

Bloody Montreal post ballet les grands ballets

A full-size poster for the ballet company's Stabat Mater show. (Courtesy of Les Grand Ballets )

Regis also cited the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards related to unacceptable depictions and portrayals as the reason behind the STM's decision. 

The code states an advertisement must not "appear in a realistic manner to exploit, condone or incite violence; nor appear to condone, or directly encourage, bullying; nor directly encourage, or exhibit obvious indifference to, unlawful behaviour."

Under the code, it also must not "undermine human dignity; or display obvious indifference to, or encourage, gratuitously and without merit, conduct or attitudes that offend the standards of public decency prevailing among a significant segment of the population."

Bloody image depicts 'mourning, suffering, pain'

The ballet company takes issue with what it calls the STM's "strong reaction" to the poster, saying that it doesn't share the transit authority's interpretation.

Les Grands Ballets artistic director Ivan Cavallari

Artistic director Ivan Cavallari stands by the ad created for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens's Stabat Mater, which he said 'confronts us with our own fear of the death we hope to escape.' (Melissa Fundira/CBC)

"This image confronts us with our own fear of the death we hope to escape," said artistic director Ivan Cavallari.

"Facing death, mourning, suffering and pain makes us uncomfortable. And yet, we aren't bothered by the hyper-sexualized images featured in many ads."

The company goes on to to describe itself as an "advocate of inclusion, openness and respect" and said that it didn't mean "to violate anyone's dignity" with the image.

The ballet company and the STM have been partners for eight years.

With files from Sara King-Abadi and Radio-Canada