Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, appeared in public with the Italian Prime Minister, Mattel Renzi yesterday, during the former’s first official visit to Europe since the lifting of sanctions against Iran last year. The two held a joint press conference in the Capitoline Museum, in view of a striking statue of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher immortalised by Richard Harris in Gladiator.
However, many of the other works were hidden behind large white panels in what has been described as an effort to spare President Rouhani from the potential embarrassment of coming face to face with some of Rome’s finest nude statues. The museum told reporters that the action was taken at the behest of the Prime Minister’s office, although nobody working for Mr. Renzi has yet responded to requests for comment.
Artworks the president missed out on include the Capitoline Venus, a statue of Apollo Citharoedus and a marble portrayal of Cupid and Psyche in a passionate embrace.
Mr. Renzi, who hails from Florence, has championed the cultural heritage of his city and country throughout his political career, but is also keen to build a strong relationship with Iran now that it has the authority and resources to trade with Europe. It is customary to make accommodations for foreign dignitaries and a dinner held during the president’s visit yesterday was served without alcohol, which is a standard diplomatic protocol for visiting Muslim politicians.