I know, everybody’s talking about Osama‘s latest. Assuming it’s Osama, of course.
So let’s talk about something else instead. The Wall Street Journal had a nice article last Saturday by John Boardman, What Were the Elgin Marbles? And should they really go back to Greece? explaining the controversy.
There are four indoor spaces that have left a mark in my mind, and two of those are at the British Museum: The Sainte Chapelle in Paris, The Pantheon in Rome, the Reading Room of the British Museum, which also has the Elgin Marbles in the Duveen Gallery.
The Elgin Marbles include:
from the Parthenon: 247ft of the original 524ft of frieze, 15 of the 92 metopes, 17 pedimental figures; various pieces of architecture
from the Erechtheion: a Caryatid, a column and other architectural members
from the Propylaia: Architectural members
from the Temple of Athena Nike: 4 slabs of the frieze and architectural members.
Each of these items is a masterpiece.
They are beautifully displayed in a large room against a pale stone background, and after coming in from the bustling city and walking through room after room filled to the brim with beautiful antiquities, the effect is at once dramatic, breathtaking, calming, and inspirational. The room is quiet, and subtly lit, and the effect is that of stillness in time. By being in that room, you understand why “the marbles transformed scholarly attitudes to Greek art world-wide”, to use John Boardman’s words.
They transformed my mind to the point that, at moments of stress I am calmed by the very mental image of placing myself at the Duveen Galleries.
Because of that, I’d prefer that the British Museum keep them where they are now.