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The hallways of the Musei Capitolini (screenshot via CorriereTV)

Yesterday, as part of his tour of Europe, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Rome’s Capitoline Museums, where he met Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. A member of his staff uploaded an impressive photograph of the museum’s iconic equestrian statue to his Instagram, but Rouhani never managed to see a number of the institution’s most ’grammed and treasured marble sculptures, which museum officials covered up in anticipation of his visit, for fear that their nudeness might offend him.

The Capitoline Venus (image via Wikipedia) (click to enlarge)

As Italian news site Corriere reported, a number of statues — including the museum’s famed Capitoline Venus — were kept hidden under minimalist white boxes, inadvertently transforming the museum’s hallowed hallways into an unauthorized Donald Judd installation. It also closed a gallery housing Pietro da Cortona’s 1627 painting “The Rape of the Sabine Women” and the Halls of the Horti Lamiani, filled with impeccably chiseled, but alas, wholly exposed nipples belonging to the likes of the Esquiline Venus and a couple of sea centaurs. The censorship is apparently part of a “blackout” of nudes arranged by the museum in agreement with Renzi’s office as a sign of respect for Iranian culture. According to Corriere, a toast during a dinner held in honor of Rouhani was also void of alcohol.

Italians were quick to object to the cover-ups, describing the action as a renouncement of their culture. Many took to Twitter, flooding the social network with images of nude sculptures accompanied by the hashtag #statuenude. Local politicians also chimed in; MP Daniele Capezzone, for instance, said the censorship introduced “a touch of the ridiculous” to Rouhani’s visit.

“Italy bowing down to the Iranians like this is embarrassing,” Capezzone said. “Is Italy reduced to this? And to not serve wine, again so as not to ‘offend’?”

Gianluca Peciola, another local politician, was so outraged that he launched an online petition calling on Renzi to immediately explain what he considers a disgrace and humiliation in the name of art and culture, writing that national principles had been severely violated and compromised. As of press time, it has received nearly 800 signatures.

Rouhani plans to fly to Paris following his tour of Italy. Unless the French government has plans to follow the Italians’ lead, the president would do well to avoid the Louvre and the gardens of Versailles.

(screenshot via @JosephineMcK/Twitter)

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

10 replies on “Italians Protect Iranian President’s Virgin Eyes from Nude Art During Museum Visit”

  1. Whatever happened to the “when in Rome do as the Romans do” philosophy? How about he just did not visit the museum?

  2. Do Mattarella, Renzi, and by default all Italians, think that this way they get the most brownie points ?

  3. FYI there are murals on the walls of some Iranian palaces that include semi nude females depicted – drinking wine no less. Part of the Iranian culture as well. This coverup was silly and unnecessary.

  4. Readers, note that this was NOT done at the request of the delegation, rather the Italian government went a ridiculous, unnecessary step too far. Rouhani earned his PhD in Glasgow. Do they really think he’s never seen a European art museum? Or had a glass of wine with dinner? Or at least sat at the table with someone who did?

  5. This is disgusting. Did they make sure to make all the female employees wear head coverings or burqa, too.. you know.. just to be sure they wouldn’t offend? Whoever thought this obscenity up should be fired.

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