Though rumours of such artwork inside the Vatican have persisted since ages, a journalist from the Slate magazine has now written an account of his visit to the gallery called Stufetta della Bibbiena, meaning “the small heated room of Cardinal Bibbiena.
It was commissioned by the papal official Bibbiena who was interested in the ribald pagan imagery being unearthed in Imperial Roman ruins.
He asked his friend Raphael to decorate his lodgings in the fashionable classical style.
The Slate writer, Tony Perrottet, described it as ‘complete with naked nymphs being spied upon by lusting satyrs, with no anatomical detail hidden.’
Future residents of the Vatican did their best to hide the images and they were vandalized and whitewashed over before being rediscovered by a Catholic art expert in the mid-19th century.
But access remained limited and after 1870, that section of the palace was turned into the Pope’s own residence, and Cardinal Bibbiena’s ancient bedroom was used for official diplomatic meetings with visiting heads of state.
Stories of the restored bathroom did filter out but very rarely was a visitor permitted a viewing.
Perrottet, managed to secure a visit after much trouble and saw for himself the details of the rumoured frescos.
“Raphael had designed his frescoed panels like a graphic novel, recounting the adventures of Venus, the goddess of love, and Cupid, the god of erotic desire, for Cardinal Bibbiena to admire as he lounged in his hot tub,” he said in his magazine article. [more]