LivingTravelWhat's inside the "Secret Cabinet" at the Naples Archaeological...

What's inside the "Secret Cabinet" at the Naples Archaeological Museum?

In 1816, a scandalous guidebook with illustrations was passed hand in hand in France. Written by Colonel Fannin, its title was The Royal Museum of Naples, being a description of the erotic paintings, bronzes and statues contained in that famous “secret of the cabinet.” Although it had been officially published by the Naples National Archaeological Museum, the French authorities confiscated and destroyed every copy they could find.

Three years later, Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies, visited the museum and was appalled by the hundreds of sculpted phalluses and mischievous mosaics. He alienated his wife and impressionable young daughter and ordered the works to be hidden from public view. No woman would be allowed to see these works again, he declared. Only a gentleman with a “well-known moral position” could henceforth enter il gabinetto segreto .

When German and English men passed through Italy on the »Grand Tour«, the Naples museum became a popular stopover. By pressing money into the palms of the museum guards, the men were able to access the pornographic treasures hidden within the secret cabinet.

Where did erotic art come from?

On August 24, 79 CE, the citizens of Pompeii awoke to what should have been a normal day in their prosperous Roman city. Mount Vesuvius erupted and completely devastated the city. Molten lava poured over construction crews repairing roads, bakers in their ovens, and lovers in their beds.

Emperor Augustus sent rescue teams, but with no survivors, the city was erased from Roman maps. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the locals knew that the site was there, although it was impossible to access as it was covered in igneous rocks and ash.

Excavations did not begin until 1748, ordered by the Bourbon King Charles III because he wanted new antiquities for his personal collection. The barracks he ordered built in the city center of Naples (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) became a repository for the best works of art in Pompeii that would be vulnerable to the many looters on the site.

The entire culture of the Roman city and the private lives of its citizens were torn from the hardened lava and brought back to life. The frescoes with erotic illustrations were stripped from the walls of Pompeii’s brothels. Thousands of pendants in the shape of phallus, wind chimes and chandeliers were brought to the depot in Naples. Scholars explained that these were once household items, often honoring the god Priapus and used as good luck charms or talismans of virility and fertility.

In 1849, the secret cabinet was bricked up and sealed. Access was granted in just two short periods 150 years from now. Finally, in 2000 the collection was made available to the public for both men and women. Then, in 2005, he officially settled in the museum with his own gallery.

How to see the secret cabinet

Do not bring the children to see this part of the museum. Although publicly accessible, the Gabinetto Segreto still has a closed door in front of it and an R-rated warning. The best way to see it is to make an appointment at the reception when entering the museum. They will ask you what time and what language you prefer.

If you are late and there is no tour available, check to see if the door is actually closed. Often it is not and you can enter directly. Just close the door behind you to keep children away.

Naples National Archaeological Museum

Piazza Museo, 19, 80135

Note that the galleries open and close without prior notice and the museum’s website is not very helpful. Ask the hotel concierge to call and confirm that the galleries you want to see are open. In addition to the secret cabinet, plan to spend at least 3 hours in the museum. It is the largest collection of classical art in the world.

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Naples National Archaeological Museum

The most amazing collection of treasures that I have seen under one roof is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Even more incredible, the museum

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I had always wondered what it would be like to see Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed it in AD 79. C. Interestingly, that wish was fulfilled in