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Fig Leaf Campaign

Fig Leaf Campaign

The Last Judgment with all most nudity covered up
Two statues with added fig leaves
The Belvedere Torso with something removed
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When did penises become offensive?

And who covered them up?

Once, when religious art was young, nudity symbolized purity. But during the Renaissance that changed, and for the first time a naked body was "dirty."

Where did this notion come from? Who started it? And who decided to cover up every penis in the Vatican?

The secrets are revealed in the premiere broadcast of Museum Secrets: Inside the Vatican Museums.

The Nude and the Cover-up

During the Renaissance, artists, philosophers and clergy became enthralled with "classical" values - by which they meant the culture, as they understood it, of ancient Greece. These values included the celebration of the ideal human form in all its glory.

In theological terms, a perfect nude sculpture is a reminder that god created man "in his image." And that's why, during the Renaissance, the Vatican filled up with nude imagery in frescoes and statuary.

But then the Protestant Reformation came along. Theologically, Protestantism strives for a simpler more direct connection with God. Politically, to achieve their goal of converting every Catholic, Protestant leaders accused the Pope and his Cardinals of abuse of power, corruption, extravagance and perversion. The Protestant accusations were at least partly true. But the truth of the matter is not the important thing. The important thing is that the accusations gained traction with new Protestants and disgruntled Catholics throughout Europe.

And so, even though Catholic church leaders were not a prudish lot, they realized they must respond or risk losing their flock. One Pope took the bull by the horns (so to speak) by ordering every penis covered with a carved, sculpted or painted fig leaf. We won't reveal the name of the censorious Pope here. To discover his identity we invite you to watch the full episode of Museum Secrets: Inside the Vatican.

But we will reveal why the fig leaf was the cover-up of choice. One explanation is a passage in the bible that mentions that Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after eating the forbidden fruit. In addition, there are several other reasons why fig leaves and penises go well together. We invite you to discover them by watching our Web Exclusive Video: Why A Fig Leaf?

Believe It Or Not

You might think that when modern art restorers encounter a fig leaf their duty would be to remove it, since that would be the only way to restore a work of art to its original form. But the issue is not quite that simple, as New York Times writer Roberto Suru explains in this article: Italy: The Great Fig-Leaf Debate.


Add a Comment

lippo • #1 • 2016-02-07 08:11:33
That looks painful.

truth • #100 • 2015-11-13 20:58:41
Protestantism was a movement of Catholics who read the the bible and strove NOT \'for a simpler more direct connection with God\' but simply to obey His Word which is the antithesis of the pope\'s.\nPolitically, the pope relies on biblical ignorance


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