In a cover story (not available online) in the new issue of Rolling Stone, the pop star says that the pictures were intended for the cover of her latest album:
"I did a photo shoot with Steven Klein for my last album cover, and I painted my face black, except for red lips and white eyes. It was a play on words. Have you ever heard of the Black Madonna? It has layers of meaning, and for a minute, I thought it would be a fun title for my record. Then I thought, 'Twenty-five percent of the world might get this, probably less. It's not worth it.' It happens all the time, because my references are usually off the Richter scale. That's why I have people like Guy [Oseary, her manager] in my life who look at me and go, 'No, you are not doing that.'"
That album became Hard Candy, the cover of which was also shot by Klein, and those "Black Madonna" photos with their unspecified "layers of meaning" never saw the light of day.