Outrage spread throughout Italy and beyond when people got wind of the fact that Italian officials had hidden nude statues behind panels at Rome’s Capitoline Museum as a mark of respect for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
According to this report, many took to social media to vent their anger, as the two examples below show.
Many also shared pictures of nude statues on the Internet.
The cover-up took place prior to Rouhani’s scheduled press conference earlier this week. The move was seen by many seen as “the heights of cultural submission” and an “insult to Roman art”.
Photographs of the museum visit show Rouhani meeting Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister.
According to this report, a spokesman for Renzi did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesman for the city of Rome, which manages the museum, said any decision regarding the ceremony with Rouhani and display of artwork had been made by the Prime Minister’s office.
The decision to cover the artwork was seen as a sign of respect for the Iranian president, according to the Italian news agency Ansa. Not everyone agreed.
Said Luca Squeri, a lawmaker in Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party:
Respect for other cultures cannot and must not mean negating our own. This isn’t respect, it’s cancelling out differences and it’s a kind of surrender.
It was not the first time that Renzi – a Florentine who is usually a proud advocate for Italy’s rich cultural heritage – has sought to be culturally sensitive in a high-stakes meeting.
In October, a cordon was placed around a nude statue by the American artist Jeff Koons during a visit to Florence by Renzi and Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
Rouhani’s visit to Europe – his first since sanctions were lifted in Iran – was supposed to take place in November but was delayed following the Paris terror attacks.
On Tuesday, he had a private meeting with Pope Francis and other top church officials where the two leaders held “cordial” talks, the Vatican said, adding that the two men shared:
Common spiritual values.
While the meeting was rare, it was not unprecedented. The last meeting between a pope and Iranian head of state took place in 1999 and the Vatican has long maintained diplomatic relations with Iran even as the republic was shunned by much of the Western world.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake and BarrieJohn