Roman Museum Covers Up Nude Works To Avoid Insulting Iranian President

220px-Capitoline_Venus_Musei_Capitolini_MC0409220px-Hassan_RouhaniThere was a very disturbing scene at Rome’s famous Capitoline Museum recently during a joint press conference between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Italian Premeir Matteo Renzi. The museum had nude sculptures covered up so not to insult the Islamic sensibilities of Rouhani and his staff. One of the statues was the “Capitoline Venus,” a Roman copy of a legendary fourth century B.C. work by Praxiteles. Ironically, it is piece that symbolized the modesty of Venus in covering up after a bath. Not modest enough, it appears, for the Iranians.

The willingness of Western leaders to yield to such medieval objections, even in a place of Western culture, is highly troubling. Devout Muslims (and other orthodox religious people who may be offended by such art) can of course choose to avoid Western art and culture. However, when you visit Rome (one of the great centers of Western Civilization) you can expect to see great art works including nude sculptures.

Of course, the Romans are not alone in such measures. Under Attorney General John Ashcroft, the two naked figures in the Great Hall of the Main Justice building were covered by blue drapes after a memo discussed the need for “hiding the statues.”

What is interesting is that not only does Culture Minister Dario Franceschini deny an knowledge of the plan but Rouhani insists that the Iranians hadn’t requested any such measures. Yet, he said “I know that Italians are a very hospitable people, a people who try to do the most to put their guests at ease and I thank you for this.”

Now Italians are pointing figures at each other. Officials at the Capitoline Museum said that the disgraceful decision was made by Mr. Renzi’s office, but Franceschini insisted that neither he nor Mr. Renzi knew of the decision. Putting aside who is responsible (though it would be good to confirm so someone can be held accountable), it is curious that this location would be selected given the sensibilities of the Iranians.

Western Civilization cannot survive the onslaught of religious extremism if we hide our culture and history behind shipping boxes. If the museum was acceptable to the Iranians for a meeting place, they should be in for “a penny or a pound.” This is the wonderful legacy of Rome and should not be shoved under a bed like some teenager’s copy of Penthouse. Indeed, such a visit could be transformative for the Iranians. This could have been a lesson in cultural pluralism and tolerance. Instead, someone reinforced the Iranian view that art should not be tolerated and should be concealed to protect their sensibilities. Italians deserve to know who created this fiasco and how that person will be held accountable.

What do you think?

44 thoughts on “Roman Museum Covers Up Nude Works To Avoid Insulting Iranian President”

  1. Just think, if the Crusades hadn’t stopped the Muslim Expansion in its efforts to conquer Europe, all us ladies would be bundled up right now in veils under Sharia Law.

  2. No, it’s cool. When Westerners visit Iran, they should discard all the chadors, roosaries, and rain coats to avoid offending our sensibilities.

  3. When Secretary Powell gave his infamous speech at the UN Security Council, the replica of “Guernica” was covered over or removed. I forgot which of the two.
    It has only been very recent that the Michelangelo mural of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel was cleaned. The cleaners removed drapes which covered the genitals of naked figures.
    There is still plenty of hypocrisy going around in the Christian world also.

  4. In the US you can watch old movies with the breasts of marble statues blanked out. There was a time here as well. We are living history here, watching those presently retarded and those evolving, albeit slowly, from having been retarded, at the same time. That is the greatest value of history, understanding where we came from and thanking our lucky stars we don’t live in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, etc.

    I wonder if Iran would allow a Mapplethorpe retrospective in Tehran.

  5. At least they are pointing fingers at each other; a sign they recognize the decision to cover the artwork up was wrong.

  6. Why do TV stations block out nudity and bleep out some words? Are they offended by their own culture?

  7. Old joke that illustrates Italian courage.

    What do you call an Italian submarine captain?


    The Italian government is displaying the same courage that Sec. Kerry displayed when our sailors were humiliated.

    By the way, Has the Obama administration ever given a credible explanation for what happened?

  8. “Western Civilization cannot survive the onslaught of religious extremism ”

    That also seems to be the goal of the vocal minority (i hope) of progressive activists that view Western civilization as the root of all evil. Something the two groups have in common even if they won’t admit it.

  9. Well, it was certainly the wrong place to great them. Surely there is someplace in Roma without a nude statue.

  10. Heads should roll over this. Ironically the Iranian president wouldn’t mind witnessing that. You know, morality.

  11. I’m going out on a limb and ask a stupid question. Does that include the cross with Christ hanging on it?

  12. We are all Muslims now! We will rue the day that we decided that our culture was worthless and that those who scream “offense” get to destroy it! The next time it will be ordering women to stay away from men, cover up and travel only with other women in groups…oh never mind that’s already been done by the Mayor of Cologne, Germany.

  13. @JT
    “Western Civilization cannot survive the onslaught of religious extremism if we hide our culture and history behind shipping boxes.” “Devout Muslims can of course choose to avoid Western art and culture.”

    What about devout Christians hiding our culture and history under heavy, expensive drapes?

    “WASHINGTON (AP) (2002) – No longer will the attorney general be photographed in front of two partially nude statues in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice.

    “The department spent $8,000 on blue drapes that hide the two giant, aluminum art deco statues, said spokesman Shane Hix. For aesthetic reasons, he said, the drapes were occasionally hung in front of the statues before formal events. The department used to rent the drapes, but has now purchased them and left them hanging.”

    “ABC News reported that Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the statues covered because he didn’t like being photographed in front of them.”

  14. No, no, no!! When in Rome, do as the Romans do. If we must sacrifice our art, culture and identify to accommodate others, it’s not right.

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