August 4, 2006

Replica of Parthenon frieze discovered in Northumberland pub

Posted at 12:28 pm in Elgin Marbles

A miniature copy of the frieze from the Parthenon that was discovered during the refurbishment of a pub has recently come to light. It is thought that the casts originated from miniature copies of the Parthenon Frieze created in at the same time as a full scale copy was constructed around the roof cornice of the Athenaeum Club in London. It is an interesting indication of the cultural impact of the sculptures that their influences can be found in such diverse locations.

Blyth & Wansbeck Today

Fri August 4 2006
A replica of Parthenon frieze uncovered in pub

A DECORATOR carrying out renovations to a Northumberland pub stumbled upon a replica of a frieze which once decorated the Parthenon in Athens.

In the early 1990s John Stephenson was helping refurbish the Three Horse Shoes public house in East Hartford when he found a bronze-coloured panel attached to a wall beneath a piece of hardboard.

The panel was 18 inches high by 52 inches across and featured six rows of figures in relief and the pub’s owner agreed that Mr Stephenson could keep his find.

“I’ve kept it under the bed,” he said, “But I’ve always wanted to know what it might be.

“I thought the figures might be Spanish soldiers, because some of them seem to be wearing wide-brimmed hats.”

Mr Stephenson contacted Rob Collins, a finds liaison officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme based at Newcastle University, who showed it to staff in the university’s museum.

Director of Archaeological Museums, Lindsay Allason-Jones, recognised the panel as a replica of the Parthenon frieze.

Rob’s research revealed that, early in the 19th century, a sculptor named John Henning (1771-1851) and his son, also named John (1802-57), were commissioned to carve a full scale replica of the Parthenon frieze to decorate the exterior of the Athenaeum Club in London.

Henning, who was a leading sculptor of the day, later carved a set of miniatures of sections of the frieze, which were put together in boxed sets and sold to collectors.

“Classical artefacts were incredibly fashionable among the upper classes in the Victorian and Georgian era, when the trend of undertaking the Grand Tour was at its height,” said Rob.

“They regarded collecting quantities of souvenirs and other reminders of the trip as a sign that they were very cultured individuals.”

So popular were Henning’s slate miniatures, that others began to copy them by making a mould of the slate and casting copies – effectively creating replicas of the replicas.

“Henning eventually became very irritated by the number of copies of his work that were being sold, even in some cases alongside his original slate sculptures.

“So in fact, while not especially rare, this find may be an interesting relic of the Victorian fascination with antiquity, or indeed it may be a much later copy.

“What is even more interesting, however, is how it came to be set into the wall of a pub in north east England.”

Mr Stephenson has donated his find, which is made of a type of resin covered by a thin layer of coppery alloy, to Newcastle University’s Shefton Museum of Greek and Etruscan Art and Archaeology.

The university’s director of archaeological museums, Lindsay Allason-Jones, said: “The replica frieze represents an important addition to the Museum’s collection.

“People are fascinated by the ancient Greeks, and the mystery of how this panel came to be in a pub in East Hartford makes it all the more interesting.

“It is also in remarkably good condition, considering that it has been hidden between two sections of wall for so many years.”

The replica has gone on display in the Shefton Museum which can be found in Newcastle University’s Armstrong Building.

The Parthenon frieze explained

CLASSICAL Greek expert, Andrew Parkin, Education Officer at Newcastle University’s archaeological museums, explained what the Parthenon Frieze is.

“At the time of completion, somewhere around 432 BC, the Parthenon, in Athens, was decorated by a continuous sculpted frieze,” he said.

“The Parthenon itself is believed to have been part of a building programme by the Athenaean statesman, Pericles.”

The subject of the frieze is open to debate, but it is likely it shows a procession to celebrate the glory of Athens known as the Panathenaic Festival.

Depicted in the procession are horsemen, water carriers and people leading sacrificial bulls, while at the front of the procession there are seated figures representing the Gods.

“There is also a figure of someone carrying a robe for the statue of Athena,” said Andrew.

“Every four years a new robe was woven for the Goddess, and carried to the Acropolis.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Possibly related articles

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment

We want to hear your views. Be as critical or controversial as you like, but please don't get personal or offensive. Remember this is for feedback and constructive discussion!
Comments may be edited or removed if they do not meet these guidelines. Repeat offenders will be blocked from posting further comments. Any comment deemed libellous by Elginism's editors will be removed.
The commenting system uses some automatic spam detection and occasionally comments do not appear instantly - please do not repost comments if they do not show up straight away