The Victorians left us one legacy they wished we would never ponder. Few people know of its existence. It was once part of a sordid world where the truth was kept locked away for a privileged elite of society. The ordinary masses could never know of those Secret Cabinets, those private rooms.
At first there was just the Gabinetto Segreto in the museum of Naples. It was once stacked, floor to ceiling, with the most perverse and outrageous images of ancient pagan fornication. From phallic lampshades and amulets, to the statue of Pan with a she-goat, from the god Priapus wielding his massive manhood in a wheelbarrow to Europa being raped by a bull. Corrupting filth was lusted over privately behind closed doors at the British Museum, the Louvre, and in dark corners of Florence, Madrid and Dresden.
At the British Museum the sickest infestations were safely quarantined within a very secure Secretum that was spoken of in hushed numeric code. For London’s ‘Cupboard 55,’ still hides over 700 phallic objects and the sickest, most disturbing Renaissance porn. Even in a new century with liberal and unshockable sensibilities our most enlightened cultural guardians double-lock, ring-fence and shield us from outrageous objects whose very sight would inflame carnal imagination. Even in that most carefree corner of Europe in Naples, Italy, entry to the Museo Nazionale is by appointment only and strictly no under-18s. The fear is that even the sternest most robust conscience would be in danger of corruption if they dared peruse the fetid history of fellatio or the minutia of medieval homosexuality.
So who benefits from preserving these depraved private collections that like a contagious sexual disease are hidden from lurid exposé? Maybe it’s not just the remnants of a self-serving clique who covet their sex trophies. Perhaps there is a driving force that compels every living soul to create its own ‘Cupboard 55’ where we gloat privately and undisturbed over a masturbatory personal exhibition and release the pent up force more satisfyingly among those special objects that can be touched, smelt or gloated over within our own concealed space.