The Russian Museum of Erotica, newly opened in St. Petersburg, has been crowing about its acquisition of the penis of Rasputin (the mad mystic and lover of the wife of the Russian Tsar). A photo accompanying the many news reports about this unusual exhibit
shows an attractive young woman staring rather in awe at the huge, grotesque thing as it floats in formaldehyde (there's another picture here
). It definitely looks like a penis, but is it Rasputin's penis (which, according to legend, was 13 inches long)?
As it turns out, Rasputin's penis has had a rather colorful history since its separation from his body. Here are some of the highlights. In 1916 Rasputin and his penis parted ways due to the machinations of a murdering gang of angry nobles. But, according to rumor, a maid found the bodiless member at the crime scene and saved it. During the 1920s a group of Russian women living in Paris acquired it (or acquired something that they believed to be his penis) and worshipped it as a kind of holy relic, while keeping it inside a wooden casket. Rasputin's daughter, Marie, didn't like the idea of her Dad's penis hanging out with these women, so she demanded the thing back. And it presumably stayed with her until she died in California in 1977. It then disappeared for a while until it came into the possession of Michael Augustine, who found it tucked away in a velvet pouch along with some of Marie Rasputin's manuscripts that he bought at a lot sale. Augustine sold the well-travelled penis to Bonham's auction house who then discovered (surprise, surprise!) that what they had bought was not a penis, but instead a sea cucumber.
That's where events stood in 1994. Now, ten years later the Russian Museum of Erotica is claiming that they have Rasputin's penis. Igor Knyazkin, the director of the Museum, claims that he bought it from a French antiquarian for $8,000. Which just begs the question: where did this French antiquarian get the penis from? One might also wonder why the Museum's penis is preserved in fluid, whereas all early accounts of Rasputin's penis describe it as dried out.