As It Happens

Nude statues in Rome covered up for visit by Iranian president

As a sign of respect to the Iranian president, all of the nude statues at a museum in Rome were covered up for his visit. But the move has upset many Italians who feel it was an insult to Italian art.
Nude statues at the Capitoline Museum in Rome were covered up for the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (ANSA via AP/Giuseppe Lami)

Italian officials are being ridiculed for covering up nude statues at the Capitoline Museum in Rome ahead of a visit by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

Now an investigation is underway to find out who made the decision to cover the statues with white boxes in an effort to spare the Iranian president any embarrassment.

Franco Pavoncello is the head of John Cabot University in Rome and, as he tells As it Happens host Carol Off, many Italians were perplexed by the sudden artwork cover-up.

"You just see a wooden box. The kind of stuff you see in a kitchen where you put your broom and stuff. That's what it is. I mean, instead of seeing the statue you see a wooden box," he explains.

Pavoncello says naked statues of both men and women were covered, including a few of Venus de Milo.

No one has yet taken responsibility for the decision to cover the statues.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi talk to each other during their meeting in Rome, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Rouhani arrived Monday in Rome on the first state visit to Europe by an Iranian president in almost two decades, eager for foreign investments after the lifting of international sanctions. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

"There has been quite an uproar. The consumer association wants to sue the government for doing this and wants the person who authorized this to pay all the expenses for making the cabinets," says Pavoncello.

"Internationally, there has been rather extensive laughter or giggling at the Italians. I mean, Le Figaro said, 'When in Rome do as the Romans do.'"

The Prime Minister says he did not know about the white boxes ahead of time and has ordered an investigation into who decided to cover up the statues.

While Pavoncello notes that a host country wants to be hospitable, "the question that many in Italy are asking, especially in the opposition, is how far should hospitality go."

Nude statues that had been covered up at a museum in Rome. The statues had been covered in white boxes for the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on January 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)


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