September 24, 2008

A piece of the Parthenon sculptures is returned

Posted at 12:43 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Following occasional hints in the preceding weeks from the Greek press & yesterday’s meeting of Greek & Italian presidents, the Palermo fragment from the Parthenon frieze has now been returned on loan to Athens.

This is not the first piece from the Parthenon sculptures to be returned, but follows on from the reunification of another smaller piece by Heidelberg University two years previously.

The Palermo fragment return has a long history to it & efforts have been ongoing to secure its loan despite previous attempts that failed. It was originally taken from Greece by Lord Elgin & found its way to Palermo as a gift, separated from the remaining Elgin Marbles in London.

The British Museum have tried in the past to argue that the Parthenon Sculptures are spread across many different locations & that their institution should not be specifically be targeted. The number of other institutions holding on to fragments of the sculptures is rapidly falling though, making the British Museum’s argument progressively weaker.

Associated Press

Italy returns piece of Parthenon Marbles to Greece
By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS – 15 hours ago

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece has finally taken possession of a chunk of the Elgin Marbles, and now holds renewed hopes of regaining the rest.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday presented Greek authorities with a small piece of sculpture from the Parthenon kept in a museum in Palermo, Sicily, for the past 200 years.

The 2,500-year-old marble fragment was one of the works Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the ancient Acropolis in the early 19th century.

Elgin gave it to a friend in Sicily during a stop on his trip back to London, where the rest of his collection is still displayed in the British Museum — despite repeated Greek requests for its return.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias thanked Napolitano for the return of the fragment, which will stay in Athens on permanent loan from the Antonio Salinas Museum.

“As you know, Greece is seeking the return of the Parthenon Marbles (from the British Museum), so you are aware of the importance and the symbolism of this gesture,” Papoulias said after talks with Napolitano Tuesday. “This gesture is especially appreciated.”

The 14-by-13-inch artifact is a foot from a sculpture of Artemis, ancient goddess of the hunt, and originally stood above the entrance to the Parthenon as part of a 520-foot frieze that ran round the temple.

“When we opened the crate, the marble just shone … like a gem,” said Vivi Vassilopoulou, a senior Culture Ministry archaeologist.

It comes from a broken block, larger pieces of which survive in Athens and London, and will be displayed at a new museum designed to host all the Acropolis finds — including the Elgin Marbles.

An Italian official said a museum in The Vatican has agreed to follow up the gesture next month by returning two pieces of the Parthenon sculptures in its collections.

“I hope this will at least open the way (for the return of the Elgin Marbles),” said archaeologist Louis Godart, Napolitano’s cultural adviser.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said the loan from Palermo was a boost to Greece’s campaign to reunite all the Parthenon works at the new museum at the foot of the Acropolis.

“The positive responses we received in our international efforts encourage us to continue until we have achieved our target,” he said.

The British Museum argues it legally acquired the Elgin Marbles, which form an integral part of its collections and are easily accessible to visitors from all over the world

The Palermo piece is the second fragment of the Parthenon marbles returned to Greece: The University of Heidelberg in Germany sent back a tiny fragment of the frieze two years ago.

The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 B.C. in honor of Athena, ancient Athens’ patron goddess, and was decorated with hundreds of sculpted figures of gods and participants in a religious procession. The marble temple survived virtually intact until 1687, during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, when a Venetian army besieging the Acropolis blew it up with cannon fire.

The Venetians started the plunder that was continued by later Western visitors, culminating in Elgin’s visit.

About half of the surviving works are now in London, while museums in France, Germany, Austria and Denmark also own small fragments.

The $190 million Acropolis Museum is set to open early next year.

Designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michalis Photiadis, the glass and concrete building will contain more than 4,000 ancient works.

Associated Press Writer Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this report

ANSA (Italy)

2008-09-23 18:57
Italy returns Parthenon fragment
Napolitano’s trip to Athens marks closer ties

(ANSA) – Athens, September 23 – A precious fragment of the Parthenon frieze has returned to Athens after decades in Italy, escorted by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, in a move intended to usher in an era of closer cultural relations. Napolitano arrived in Athens on Tuesday, where he was greeted by his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias, ahead of a busy schedule that will see him inaugurating two important shows.

A major art exhibition on Titian is opening in the Museum of Cycladic Arts, while the much talked-about New Acropolis Museum next to the Parthenon is hosting an expanded version of an Italian show devoted to the recovery of plundered artefacts. The Parthenon fragment, carved by the Greek sculptor and architect Phidias, will be part of the second event, entitled Nostoi (Ancient Greek for ”homecoming”).

The exhibit, the first in the New Acropolis Museum since building work finished, has just wrapped up a hugely popular run in Rome and is expected to draw similar crowds in Athens. Although the focus of the exhibit is artworks and artefacts recovered by Rome from US museums, many of these date from a period in which southern Italy was colonized by Ancient Greece and are therefore also of relevance to Greek history. In addition to the 74 Italian pieces, Nostoi will also feature ten artefacts returned to Greece, among which the 33cm x 35cm frieze fragment. The scrap of marble was once part of the left side of the sculpted Parthenon frieze from the temple of Athena, which was stripped of much of its decoration during the 19th century.

While the majority of it was carted off to London by Lord Thomas Bruce Elgin who was serving as British Ambassador in Greece, this particular fragment ended up in a Palermo museum in the 1800s after being purchased from the widow of the British Consul for Sicily, Robert Fagan.

Depicting the foot and dress hem of Artemis, the fragment was part of a much larger scene portraying the Greek goddess of hunting and wisdom alongside Poseidon, Apollo and Aphrodite.


The fragment, which the Salinas Archaeological Museum in Palermo has loaned to Athens until the end of the year, has been at the centre of talks between Italian and Greek authorities for years. It was originally scheduled to return as a long-term loan in exchange for an Italian artefact in 2003 but the agreement fell by the wayside after squabbles over its safe transport.

A second deal in 2006 also failed to produce results.

Although the return of the fragment is currently temporary, authorities from both countries say it indicates a new openness and willingness to cooperate on cultural matters, and there have been suggestions the loan could become permanent. Welcoming the Italian president to his residence, Papoulias said Greece ”deeply appreciated” the gesture, which was a first step in his country’s efforts to recover all the Parthenon marbles. The two leaders will lunch together at the presidential palace on Wednesday, after opening Nostoi in the morning and ahead of the Titian show’s inauguration in the afternoon.

Greece has been calling for the return of the Parthenon marbles since 1981 but with minimal success. The majority of pieces are in the UK although France, Germany and Italy also have a share.

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

Possibly related articles

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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