Several Rome statues depicting nudity were covered ahead of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit this week, so as not to offend his Islamic sensibilities, Italian media reported Tuesday.
Rouhani arrived in Italy on Monday, where he met Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and closed bilateral deals worth some 17 billion euros ($18.5 billion).
The two leaders met Monday at the Capitoline Museums, a complex of art and architectural museums located atop Capitoline Hill in Rome, a hill overlooking the city graced with a plaza designed by Michelangelo.
According to Italian paper Corriere della Sera, all female statues at the museum’s Esedra Hall were covered with four white panels. Members of the Iranian delegation confirmed that the statues were covered.
The dictates of Shiite Islam’s modesty then extended to the room where the subsequent press conference took place, so much so that Renzi and Rouhani’s podium was placed not in front of, but next to, the iconic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, for fear that press and TV cameras would capture the horse’s genitalia behind the two world leaders.
In the hours preceding the press conference, members of the massive Iranian delegation (Rouhani came with an entourage of more than 100) took “dozens” of selfies with the famous bronze statue, a landmark of Roman art emulated many times since its creation in the second century.
According to Corriere della Sera, Renzi and the Italian diplomats also gave up their wine during an official dinner, since alcohol is forbidden in Islam. The paper reported that France, where Rouhani is scheduled to land on Wednesday, avoided the issue of alcohol altogether by not including an official meal in the diplomatic itinerary.
Rouhani’s European tour is his first diplomatic trip outside Iran since the lifting of crippling economic sanctions last week. The tour was scheduled for November of last year, but was postponed in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris that month.