Perverse Relics: a Grand Tour of Europe’s Historical Underbelly

Relic from the Hellfire Caves in Britain

Relic from the Hellfire Caves in Britain

An Illustrated lecture with author, Tony Perrottet


Date: Tuesday, September 11th

Time: 7:30

Admission: $10

Presented by Atlas Obscura

Tony Perrottet has made a career of tracking down historical sites and relics that have been kept far from public view. In this vividly illustrated lecture, he will recount his adventures researching his latest books, Napoleon’s Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped and The Sinner’s Grand Tour. In Great Britain, he was able to find the bizarre artifacts used by 18th century sex clubs hidden in St Andrews University. In southern France, an ancient text led him inside the chateau of the Marquis de Sade, now owned by the fashion icon, Pierre Cardin. In Paris, an 1883 prostitute guide helped him discover the Belle Epoque fantasy brothel Le Chabanais and the lost “sex chair” of King Edward VII. And Renaissance documents in the Vatican Secret Archive pointed the way to the pope’s own apartments in Vatican City, wherein lies the fabled Stufetta del Bibbiena, a pornography-covered bathroom painted by Raphael in 1516.

To round off the evening, Perrottet will describe his pursuit of Napoleon’s penis, which (according to legend) is kept in a presentation box in suburban New Jersey.

Tony Perrottet is a contributing writer to Smithsonian Magazine, a regular contributor to the New York Times, and the author of five books. For more information, go to


This is part of the “Atlas Obscura Speakers” series of talks at Observatory.


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