We have a witness now! Historian Tony Perrottet, the author of a recent book on historic European erotica, The Sinner’s Grand Tour: A Journey through the Historical Underbelly of Europe, wrote an innocent article called “5 surprisingly raunchy destinations in Europe” for CNN which reveals a secret the Vatican might not want you to know, the story of the Stufetta del Bibbiena inside the Vatican:
“Perrottet calls this “the most secret corner of the Secret City.” And he is here to confirm it’s real: a bathroom in the papal apartments painted with erotic images by the Renaissance master Raphael.
Seeing the Stufetta del Bibbiena took exhaustive research, a flurry of e-mails, and tense interviews with Vatican officials. “To this day, I’m not entirely sure why they let me in, but they did,” Perrottet said, speculating all the intrigue raised by the author of “The Da Vinci Code” may have officials leery of creating more rumors.
“On a certain level, they’re trying to open up certain parts of the Vatican to stop the Dan Brown fantasies of what’s lying in there.”
Just getting in the front gates of the Vatican was exciting, Perrottet said, something most visitors never get to do. (He was able to secure a pass because of his credentials as a scholar.)
Swiss Guards escorted him into the papal apartments, where he had 10 minutes to examine the Stufetta.
The two dozen images painted in 1516 — which feature the goddess Venus in various poses with Cupid — aren’t shocking by modern pornographic standards, but they are provocative and were meant to be erotic, Perrottet said.
The fact that they’re inside the Vatican makes them “100 times more powerful,” he added. Today, the room sits empty, Perrottet said.”
More on the subject over at Perrottet’s blog:
“In 1516, Raphael executed the drawings for two dozen raunchy scenes, which were painted on fifteen-inch stucco panels across the walls and ceiling of the vaulted bathroom. Some images the maestro painted himself, other were completed under his supervision by his workshop staff. Several were framed by seashells.
News of the entangled lovers, priapic satyrs and curvaceous goddesses spread around Rome, and friends of both Raphael and Bibbiena came to admire the work. But after the untimely deaths of both patron and artist in 1520, visits by outsiders grew less common. Thirty years later, even Giorgio Vasari, the famous biographer of Renaissance artists, was unable to gain access at all, lamenting that “the frescoes are still in existence, but are not open to the public.” Still, Raphael’s students circulated a number of engraved copies of the panels, providing tantalizing clues. The most notorious image involves the half-goat god Pan with a monstrous erection about to leap from some bushes upon a luscious naked nymph, who is casually combing her hair, her legs slightly apart.”
In this Rumpus Interview Tony Perrottet reveals more details:
“Rumpus: You speak of how the erect phallus on the depiction of Pan had been scraped out, effaced, and yet that rendered that section of the painting even more outstanding, more obvious. I love that irony. The more you try to stamp it out …
Perrottet: The more it comes out some other way …”
Found via the hyperactive folks over at Hyperallergic.
Image above from China Art Discount