Goats, goddesses and genitalia: The secret cabinet of naples as seen by the grand tourist

Thumbnail Image
Mowry, Bethany R.
Washburn University
Issue Date
December 2007
Alternative Title
In May of 1827 an anonymous clergyman wrote a letter to the King of Naples, urging him to abolish the Secret Cabinet of the Royal Museum. In this letter he related the experience of “running into a group of foreigners, browsing the classified room of obscene things” during his recent visit to the Museum. The priest was “horrified” to see “one over-opened woman to a man, both naked; here a goat, held behind by another, with risen member, and that in the attitude of coitus; in another part one man on another, committing the nefarious defect of sodomy; scattered various Priapi, and other objects that freeze the hand, and the core.” Amidst this “plague of Religion” the foreigners, who were English, gossiped among themselves. The priest, who understood English, relayed their conversation to the king: “‘Is this the Catholic Reign that boasted of healthy morals? Is this the Roman Catholic shelter? Shame! Only to Naples would these infamous things belong!’” The priest ended his letter with a veiled threat of excommunication if the collection remained, but promises of Paradise if the king closed the Cabinet down.