jueves, 15 de marzo de 2012

Should Parthenon marbles stay in London or Athens?

*To my English readers: I apologize for every mistake. Please be aware I am a Spanish writer who translates what you have asked for.


Marbles of the pediment from the Parthenon.
On display in the British Museum
Between the years of 1801 and 1805 Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed more than half of the sculptures of marble that decorated the Parthenon in Athens, claiming to have the permission of the Turkish authorities, at that time the rulers of Greece. Afterward, Lord Elgin brought the sculptures to London and sold them to the British Museum, where they have been on public and free display since 1816. But in 1816 there were yet many who questioned the legality of Elgins’s actions.

The Parthenon in Athens without pediment decoration.
In 1980 the Greek government launched an international campaign for the restitution of all the Parthenon sculptures, mainly those in the British Museum (there are some more in the Louvre, the Vatican, Copenhagen, Vienna, Munich and Würzburg). The position of Greece is that Lord Elgin committed pillage by leaving the country with the marbles, so now they must be returned to Athens, to the New Acropolis Museum, built to that purpose.

Fragments of metopes from the Parthenon.
On display in the British Museum.
Of course, the British Museum refuses to let go the remarkable sculptures, defending its ownership and arguing that the marbles are an extraordinary chapter of the Human history, better preserved maybe thanks to Lord Elgin. Although the real concern about this legal battle is whether or not it could set a dangerous precedent to judge other cases. Nefertiti's bust in Berlin or Egyptian mummies could be the next targets.

New Acropolis Museum in Athens.
Should those sculptures return to Athens, they would be on exhibition at the New Acropolis Museum, which welcome visitors just in front of the Acropolis. In that more than improbable case, the visitor could live the unique and moving experience of admiring together most of the 92 metopes of the Parthenon. These pieces were the first parts of the whole entablature to be decorated and each one reproduced a self-contained scene, usually two figures. The subjects were taken from legendary battles and symbolized Athenians victories against the Persians.  
Ideal reconstruction of the West pediment
 and metopes of the Parthenon.
Same apllies to the pediment, the triangular spaces formed by the horizontal and raking cornices of the roof at each end of the temple. These were the last parts of the building to receive sculptural decoration (437-432 BC), of course, in bright colours. They comprised colossal statues in the round and the themes were drawn from Attic mythology.

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