"Secret Cabinet" of Naples, or "inconvenient" exhibits from the ancient Lupanarium
"Secret Cabinet" of Naples, or "inconvenient" exhibits from the ancient Lupanarium
Candid drawings on amphorae are commonplace for the ancient Romans

The Archaeological Museum of Naples has a so-called "secret cabinet", with a rather controversial collection. It contains various items of an erotic, and even more explicit nature, which were discovered in Pompeii. We invite our readers to a virtual tour of this unusual museum.

Exhibits in the Secret Room

Archaeological finds in ancient Pompeii destroyed the concept of dry rationality of the aesthetics of classicism to smithereens. Archaeologists found especially many "inconvenient" items in the city lupanaria: phallic household utensils, inscriptions and frescoes of Priapeia, sculptural compositions depicting scenes of bestiality and sodomy.

Votive items in the Secret Cabinet Here's a plate

For a long time, scientists were lost in conjectures, not knowing how to deal with overly explicit exhibits. The solution to the issue was found by the Sicilian king Francesco I, who visited the excavations, accompanied by his wife and daughter. The monarch was extremely indignant at what he saw and gave the order to transport all the "sedition" to the capital and lock them up in a special "secret office". By the way, the shameful frescoes that offend public morality, of which there were more than enough in Pompeii, Francesco I ordered to cover with curtains that were raised for a fee and only for men.

One of the frescoes from the Lupanarium

At first, only a narrow circle of people had the opportunity to see the Pompeian collection. But in 1849 the door to the room where this unusual exposition was located was bricked up. A little later, access to the "secret office" was still opened, but only for "people of mature age and impeccable reputation."

Marble statue from Pompeii

In the late 1960s, an attempt was made to "liberalize" the exhibition regime and turn the Secret Cabinet into a public museum, but this was thwarted by conservatives. The office was open to the public only for a short time. And the final opening of the office took place only in 2000. All adult citizens could get into it. Teenagers need written permission from their parents. In 2005, the collection of the "secret cabinet" was handed over to the management of the National Museum of Archeology.


Different peoples and in different countries have their own views on intimate relationships. That's why drawings by the great Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai many Europeans may seem incredible.

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