Anger in Italy after nude statues were covered up

ROME - THE storm in Italy over the covering up of ancient nude statues with white boxes at Rome's Capitoline Museum during a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani continued unabated yesterday, three days after the episode, Italian media reported.

The office of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has opened an investigation to find out who decided to hold the press conference in the museum, which he co-chaired with Mr Rouhani, reported La Repubblica.

Said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini in a Twitter post: "I think there should be other ways not to offend a foreign guest without having to do this incomprehensible act of covering up the statues.

"Covering those nudes covered Italy in ridicule," went a headline in the Il Giornale newspaper, joining an outpouring of scorn and shock from the opposition leaders, media and netizens over the incident.

Columnist Michele Serra wrote in La Repubblica: "The problem is that those statues... are the foundation of European and Mediterranean culture and civilisation."

One of the statues covered was Capitoline Venus, a Roman copy of a legendary fourth century BC work by Attic sculptor Praxiteles.

Some of the other sculptures were of ancient Greek and Roman gods, dressed minimally, if at all, the New York Times pointed out.

The newspaper called the incident a prime example of culture clash: an austere Islamic government that promotes chastity and piety meets a nominally Roman Catholic but largely secular culture.

Public depictions of nudity are largely forbidden in Iran.

La Repubblica reported yesterday that the "cover-up" decision appeared to have been made by Ilva Sapora, chief of the State Ceremonial department in the Prime Minister's Office.

But as to whether she had taken a cue from the Iranian guests or acted on her own was still unclear yesterday.

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