Italy covers up nude statues for Iran president

Visitors walk past statues on display at Rome's Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini) on Capitol Hill on January 26, 2016.

Visitors walk past statues on display at Rome’s Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini) on Capitol Hill on January 26, 2016.

Italian authorities welcoming Iran’s president on a diplomatic visit this week seemed keen to avoid embarrassment – by covering up classical nude sculptures in the museum he visited.

While Hassan Rowhani is known for his relatively moderate stance – as opposed to the many ultra-conservatives and hardliners packed in the Islamic Republic’s system – Italy did not seem to want to take any chances.

At Rome’s Capitoline Museum, where Rowhani met Italian premier Matteo Renzi, ancient nude statues had all been covered up in temporary wooden cartons, removing the risk of them creeping into any of the shots.

The two men made speeches in Rome’s Capitoline Museum after a signing ceremony on Monday which saw Italian companies tie up $18 billion worth of deals with Iran.

However, the move towards modesty drew criticism from a cultural official, who said it was the “wrong decision.”

“You can not hide your culture, your religion or history itself,” said Giuliano Volpe, head of the Superior Council for Cultural Heritage at the Italian culture ministry, told public broadcaster Rai3.

“We must enhance rather respect and differences,” he said.

The museum cover-up was not the only step Italy took to ensure the Iranian visit passed off smoothly.

As Rowhani refuses to attend official meals at which any alcohol is available, wine was strictly off the menu at both lunch with President Sergio Mattarella and dinner with Renzi.

According to media reports, France has rejected making a similar placatory gesture, leaving diplomats preparing for Rowhani’s visit to Paris from Wednesday with a major protocol headache.


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