In a move that has upset many art lovers and Italians in general, authorities in Italy covered up naked statues in Rome’s museums for the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
During his visit to Rome on Monday, Rouhani toured the Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums), accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The world famous museums are home a huge collection of artifacts from the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance periods, including many marble statues and other artifacts displaying the naked human form.
— Alessandro Speciale (@aspeciale) January 26, 2016
While the Iranian president reportedly enjoyed his tour, he didn’t get to see some of the most spectacular masterpieces in the museum, which had all been carefully hidden behind large white panels (pictured above). This was done as a show of respect to the Iranian president out of fear that the private parts of ancient Roman gods might offend him.
On top of this, there is reportedly no wine to be had at any of the official receptions during Rouhani’s stay, as there is a ban on liquor out of respect for Iran’s leader.
— Nicolette (@OeiNicolette) January 26, 2016
As reported by the International Business Times, many Italians were angered by the censorship and accused authorities of betraying Italy’s cultural heritage in the name of political correctness and business interests.
Many Italians took to the social media to voice their displeasure, with many posting images of the naked statues accompanied by the hashtag #statuenude in protest against the move.
— Istranzu (@_istranzu_) January 26, 2016
While the Capitoline Museums, which are located on the Capitoline hill in the ancient city, are normally managed by the local council, according to a spokesperson, the Italian government stepped in and took charge to ready the displays for the visit by the Iranian president.
— Mangino Brioches (@manginobrioches) January 26, 2016
Rouhani’s visit to Rome marks the first European trip by an Iranian president for 16 years and follows the lifting of economic sanctions against the country after the recent nuclear deal.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the visit to Italy by the Iranian president is aimed at rebuilding economic ties between the two countries. Reportedly, contracts worth $18 billion are expected to be signed between Tehran and various Italian companies.
Rouhani will also hold talks with Renzi, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and Pope Francis before he leaves the city.
Before heading to the Vatican, Rouhani addressed a forum of business leaders in Rome, assuring them that “Iran is the safest and most stable country of the entire region.”
When the Iranian president met with Pope Francis on Tuesday, the pontiff called on Tehran to play a key role in stopping the spread of terrorism. Pope Francis referred to how the Iranian president and his government are attempting to improve their image in the global arena following the nuclear agreement.
Reportedly, Rouhani’s visit to the pope is the first official visit by an Iranian president to a pontiff since 1999. The pope and Rouhani spent 40 minutes in private talks before the Iranian president met and spent some time with other top Vatican officials.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leafs through a book he gave to Pope Francis as a gift. https://t.co/9yTg02qBp7 pic.twitter.com/o3W6I8qvIM
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 26, 2016
The pope reportedly gave Rouhani a medal depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to a poor man, describing the act of the saint as “a sign of unsolicited brotherhood.” In return, Rouhani gave the pontiff a gift of a hand-made rug, which he told him was made in the Iranian holy city of Qom along with a pictorial book pictured above.
The Iranian president’s next stop after Rome is France on January 27. It is currently unknown whether Paris will take similar steps in the city during Rouhani’s visit to that country.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]