Secret Cabinet of Pompeian Erotica

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Date: 1800

Region: Europe

Subject: Nudity, Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Painting, Sculpture


Pompeii Erotica.jpg

Artist: Ancient Romans

Confronting Bodies: Royal, clerical and political authorities

Dates of Action: 1800 - 2000

Location: Naples, Italy

Description of Artwork: vast collection of ancient erotica dating back to A.D. 79 when Vesuvius erupted destroying Pompeii, 250 frescoes, mosaics, statues, talismans, amulets, oil lamps as well as fertility symbols.

The Incident: Since the first excavation of Pompeii antiques in 18th century the display of this collection has been regularly banned and challenged by religious, royal and political authorities. Pietro d’Onofri, a priest, “excommunicated” Pompeii in the early 1800s, saying, “That entire city was given to the most sordid impropriety, and so from God, it deserved, like Sodom, the calamity of fire.” On the practical level that most often has meant that The Secret Cabinet has been closed to visitors with a few historical exceptions.

Results of Incident: In 2000 the Secret Cabinet was reopened at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples: however, even today schoolchildren need parental permission to see the exhibits.

Source: The New York Times, NCAC.