Home » Arts & Entertainment » There is a Secret Wing to the Museum in Naples. It Contains All the Erotic Art Found in Pompeii. The Doorway was Even Bricked Up at One Point. It was Only Fully Opened to the Public in 2000.

There is a Secret Wing to the Museum in Naples. It Contains All the Erotic Art Found in Pompeii. The Doorway was Even Bricked Up at One Point. It was Only Fully Opened to the Public in 2000.

When the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were unearthed from beneath volcanic ash at the foothills of Mount Vesuvius in the mid-18th century, the materials discovered revealed an aspect of the ancient world that caused great embarrassment, the cities’ fascination with erotica. But did you know that there is an entire wing in the Museum in Naples dedicated to the erotic art?

For centuries, a secret wing of a museum in Naples housed all of the erotic art discovered in Pompeii. The cabinet was closed for over a century. The doorway was even bricked up at one point and was only fully opened to the public in 2000.

The Ancient Erotica Exhibit

There were phallic-shaped oil lamps and jewelry, frescoes of couples having sex, scenes of fornication, and the most scandalous of all, a statue depicting the half-man, half-goat Greek god Pan penetrating a female goat.

It is well known today that the ancient Romans had a very liberal view of sexuality. Pompeii had a thriving sex industry with dozens of brothels adorned with erotic frescoes. Artistic depictions of sex were also discovered on the walls of private villa bedrooms. Pompeii residents hung phallic-shaped amulets around their necks to ward off evil spirits, and each home was adorned with various sex-themed artworks.

The open display of sexually explicit materials caused such embarrassment and consternation among the 18th-century public that King Charles III of Bourbon ordered the obscene antiquities to be locked away in a secret cabinet, out of sight of the general public.

The marble sculpture of the half-human, half-goat god Pan having sex with a she-goat horrified the king. He hurriedly led the party away from the site, ordering the sculpture to be locked in a cabinet at the Herculaneum Academy in Naples.

The secret cabinet, or gabinetto segreto, was initially housed at the Museum Herculanense in Portici, and those with express could only view it wrote permission from the King. However, the censorship fueled the desire to see erotic art. Illustrations of the frescoes and copies of the forbidden exhibits were secretly reproduced and distributed among France’s elites.  (Source: Amusing Planet

Why was the Wing Kept Secret?

Following the transfer of the museum from Portici to the Naples National Archaeological Museum, there was a brief period during which the collection could be viewed without special restrictions until King Francis I of Naples paid a visit in 1819 with his wife and daughter. The embarrassed king hurriedly escorted his wife and daughter away from the museum. He directed that the collection be kept in a special chamber accessible only to gentlemen of “mature age and respected morals.” Women and children were not allowed in.

The Secret Museum remained mostly closed for the next two centuries, only opening a few times briefly. The restrictions were still in place when it first opened in the 1960s. Finally, in 2000, the collection was released and made public for both men and women.

Viewing previously restricted to adult men of high moral character is now available to all, at least those over the age of 14. Many frescoes are faded and difficult to see clearly in the dim light, but the subject matter is graphic, wildly sensual, and slightly disturbing, none more so than the statue of Pan copulating with a goat. (Source: Amusing Planet