Italy covers up nude statues to avoid embarrassing Iranian president

Though Italy is famous for its stark statues of nude bodies, government officials may have hid that fact from the Iranian president by covering up prominent marble genitals in Rome.

Many see the cover-up as giving up local traditions to satisfy a foreign leader

A decision by Italian officials to cover up ancient nude statues to not offend Iran's visiting president is drawing ridicule in Rome. (Giuseppe Lami/ANSA via AP)

Though Italy is famous for its stark statues of nude bodies, government officials may have hid that fact from the Iranian president by covering up prominent marble genitals in Rome.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, visited one of Rome's Capitoline Museums on his tour to help spur investment in Iran. There, he met the Pope, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and a series of white boards blocking sight of the human nude form, according to the country's ANSA news agency.

The agency says this decision was made out of respect for the sensitivities of the Iranian president, though the 500-year-old Capitoline Museums are world-famous for their historic artwork and statues.

Other considerations, like not serving alcohol at dinners, are common when hosting Islamic world leaders.

As for who decided to cover up the statues, The Guardian reports that museum officials in Rome pointed to the Prime Minister's Office.

But blocking the historic statues appears to have been a step too far for many Italians. 

"Respect for other cultures cannot and must not mean negating our own," Luca Squeri, a member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia political party, told the Guardian.

"This isn't respect, it's canceling out differences and it's a kind of surrender."

The president of the Brothers of Italy, a right-wing political party, posted a video on Facebook saying that the only person who should be embarrassed is the country's prime minister.

"The only thing to cover is Renzi's brazen face, not our classic statues," said Georgia Meloni.

But it's not just the right or Italians getting angry. Gianloca Peciola, a left-wing activist, began a petition against the Italian government on Change.org

Meanwhile, some Iranian women also took it as a slight, saying that the decision only encourages leaders to force women to cover up back home. 

"Apparently, you respect the values of the Islamic Republic, but the problem is the Islamic Republic of Iran does not respect our values or our freedom of choice," wrote the Facebook group, My Stealthy Freedom, managed by Masih Alinejad. 

The group showcases pictures of Iranian women not wearing a head scarves, despite Iranian laws requiring all women to do so. 

"If you are an Iranian woman choosing not to wear the obligatory veil, then you won't have any education in your own country," the post added. 

Regardless of where they come from, people have gone to Twitter to show Rouhani what he's missing.

For Rouhani, the trip overall appears to have been fruitful. As sanctions across the world are lifted, it marks the first time an Iranian leader has visited Europe in roughly 16 years, according to CNN.

The tour has allowed for Iranian officials to meet with at least 100 Italian business executives. Companies then invested roughly €17 billion ($26 billion) into Iranian projects, according to the Guardian. 

After three days in Italy, Rouhani's next stop is in France, where Iran has been trying to buy French airplanes and cars, both of which were previously blocked by the sanctions. 

Despite Twitter being banned within Iran, Rouhani tweeted after the trip that the Italian portion of his tour went well and that he's happy that "private sectors are in touch."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.