Quote of the Day

Each stone as it fell shook the ground with its ponderous weight, with a deep hollow noise; it seemed like a convulsive groan of the injured spirit of the temple.

Sir Robert Smirke, Architect of the current British Museum

May 17, 2005

Petros Tatoulis’s response on the treatment of the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 4:43 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following Sunday’s article, Petros Tatoulis, Greece’s deputy culture minister has issued a response to it.

Athens News Agency

Tatoulis on reports concerning the maintenance of the Parthenon Marbles by the British Museum

Athens, 17/5/2005 (ANA)

Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, commenting on reports by foreign newspapers on the manner with which the British Museum maintains and protects the Parthenon Marbles, said on Monday that “the Greek government does not wish to comment further on the information concerning the inadequate maintenance and protection of the Elgin Marbles by the British Museum.”
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May 15, 2005

Daily Telegraph exposes extent of damage to Elgin Marbles in British Museum

Posted at 1:05 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

The British Museum has often claimed that in removing the sculptures from the Parthenon, Elgin acted as a preservationist. They also suggest that the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum are better preserved than those in Athens. Many people dispute these claims however, for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • A number of the sculptures were damaged significantly during their removal from the Parthenon.
  • One of the ships (the Mentor) carrying the Marbles back to England sank & it was not until some time later that the Marbles could be retrieved from it
  • When they first arrived in London they were kept under a Tarpaulin at the back of Elgin’s Park Lane house in London – so were still quite exposed to the English weather including Damp, Frost etc.
  • They were kept in London at a time when London was one of the most polluted cities in the world, with many problems with smog & this was at a time before climatically controlled galleries
  • The cleaning of the Marbles at the Request of Lord Duveen has been well documented & went against all restoration techniques used at that time & is though to have damaged the surface finish of many of the sculptures.

On a number of occasions I have noticed that while the staff at the Acropolis are very strict in stopping people from touching sculptures etc, at the British Museum there is a much larger potential for damage to artefacts, with adults touching sculptures (Not specifically in the Duveen Gallery – this occurs throughout the museum) & children climbing on artefacts without being spotted by the museum staff. I have some photos showing this that I will try & post later this week.

Now, under the Freedom of Information Act, the Sunday Telegraph have exposed a number of additional instances where the sculptures in the British Museum have been damaged.

Sunday Telegraph

Revealed: how rowdy schoolboys knocked a leg off one of the Elgin Marbles
By Chris Hastings, Media Correspondent
(Filed: 15/05/2005)

The Elgin Marbles have survived an invasion by Turkish hordes and a bombardment by the Venetian Navy – but two rowdy schoolboys were too much for them, secret papers reveal.

The documents, released by the British Museum under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the 2,500-year-old antiquities have had to be repaired after a number of mishaps, acts of theft and vandalism by visitors.
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May 13, 2005

Petros Tatoulis meets Chris Stockdale

Posted at 10:03 pm in Elgin Marbles

Now that Chris Stockdale has arrived in Athens, the Greek deputy culture minister has met him to congratulate him for his efforts.

Athen News Agency

Tatoulis meets British activist Stockdale who supports the return of the Parthenon Marbles

Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis on Friday met with British medical doctor and activisit Chris Stockdale who is among supporters for the return to the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

The British philhellene visited Athens with the sole purpose of stating anew the need for the Parthenon Marbles to be reunited.
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Chris Stockdale cycles from London to Athens for the marbles

Posted at 1:11 pm in Elgin Marbles

British doctor Chris Stockdale has just completed a journey by bike from the British Museum in London, to the Acropolis in Athens to raise awareness for the Elgin Marbles.
He has arrived there almost a week earlier than expected.
It is not his first effort, having previously swum in between the Greek Islands of Delos & Paros for the same cause.
A (badly translated by me) interview with him is in Ta Nea today.


Chris Stockdale “Returns” the Marbles with a bicycle
Twenty seven days, a bicycle and his passion for the return of the Parthenon Marbles was what the 63 year old doctor, Chris Stockdale required in order to cover the distance from the British Museum to the Acropolis. A symbolic journey, as he characterises it himself, with a view that it adds one little stone to the effort of repatriation of the leading work of art of classic antiquity, that was created by Pheidias in the 5th century BC and removed brutally 24 centuries later by Lord Elgin.
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May 12, 2005

Is the UK Government really committed to stopping the trade in stolen artefacts?

Posted at 10:42 pm in Similar cases

For a while, the British government was in the process of setting up a database of stolen artwork & antiquities. However investigation by The Art Newspaper reveals that these plans have been quietly shelved by the government, despite the initial enthusiasm that they showed for the idea.
Britain is currently regarded by many in the field to be one of the key hubs in the international market in stolen artworks, but with attitudes like this can we really hope for any sort of change soon?

The Art Newspaper

Thursday, 12 May 2005
British government scraps key database
It was supposed to be a crucial element in helping to enforce the new Dealing in Cultural Objects Act
By Martin Bailey

LONDON. The British government has quietly dropped plans for a database of stolen art and antiquities, although this was a key element in helping to enforce a new law. The Dealing in Cultural Objects Act came into force at the beginning of 2004, and the government then advised dealers that consulting the projected database should be part of the “due diligence” process, to help establish that they were not knowingly handling tainted objects.
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British Museum will loan items to museums when it wants to

Posted at 1:33 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

For the last few years, the Greek request for the return of the Elgin Marbles has altered from the original claim that disputed the legality of ownership & wanted full ownership rights given to Greece. As a way of getting around the anti-deaccessioning clauses in the Museums Act, in addition to their rejection of any claims of ownership, they have said that they would be willing to accept the Marbles on permanent loan. However the British Museum has still rejected such requests, even though they can not fall back onto their previous reasoning that the Museums Act is what is preventing them.
However, there are many other examples of them giving items to other museums on very long term loans (effectively what Greece is asking for). The article below covers just one of many examples.

Yorkshire Evening Post

11 May 2005
A gift to the gods…and a godsend for museum
Bronze Age sword takes centre stage in £250,000 revamp


A Bronze Age sword, possibly cast away 3,000 years ago as a tribute to the Gods, has been returned to its Yorkshire home.
The ancient blade is the centrepiece of an exciting new exhibition at Scarborough Castle following a £250,000 investment by English Heritage to transform the 12th century fortress into a world class tourist attraction.
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May 10, 2005

Former editor of The Times re-iterates his support for return of the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 1:50 pm in Elgin Marbles

Sir Simon Jenkins, the former editor of The Times, & long time writer for the paper wrote about the Elgin Marbles in a leader some years ago. In his last day at the paper (before moving to the Guardian) he uses his final article to discuss many of the previous issues that he has argued for, including the Elgin Marbles. An indication that although he may not have written about them since then, he still feels strongly about the issue.

The Times

(Only relevant portion of article is included)

If I upset readers (as I did) in preferring Cervantes to Einstein, I again apologise. But I shall always worship Don Quixote of La Mancha. Beneath his bucket helmet and battered breastplate I have championed such lost causes as local self-government at home and non-intervention abroad. I have preached the United Nations Charter on national sovereignty to no effect. I defended just wars in the Falklands and Kuwait and opposed unjust ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have hated bombers, Canada geese, crime statistics, faction movies and the Health and Safety Executive. I have championed GM foods, Belfast City Council, risk autonomy and the return of the Elgin Marbles. If I am an ethical “relativist” it is because I cannot see how a democrat can be anything else. Moral absolutism is for simpletons and tyrants.

May 8, 2005

Duveen & the cleaning of the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 6:06 pm in Elgin Marbles

Since the late 1990’s there has been a lot of discussion over the cleaning of the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum in the 1930s, carried out under the instruction of Lord Duveen.
In his review of a new book on Renaissance art, Waldemar Januszczak looks at the accumulated misunderstandings & misinterpretations through history that led Duveen to this belief that by cleaning the marbles he was restoring them to the way their creators had intended them to be.

Sunday Times

The Sunday Times – Books

May 08, 2005

Art: The Mirror of the Gods
THE MIRROR OF THE GODS : Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art
by Malcolm Bull Allen

Lane £30 pp352

If I have worked out correctly the genealogy of these things — and when you are dealing with the gods the genealogy is fiendishly complex — then Picasso’s appropriation of classical imagery during his bulky- goddesses phase was essentially a revival of a revival of a revival of a revival of a revival. One of the few certainties available in the study of the gods is that they are persistent. We’re stuck with them. Another is that they ceased, many metamorphoses ago, several revivals back, to impinge on our reality in any practical or meaningful way. Once they were found in temples and at pilgrimage sites. But for most of their history they have existed exclusively in our dreams. Which is why they are so critical. And why Malcolm Bull has been tempted by them into mounting his magnificent hunt for their true Renaissance identity.
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May 3, 2005

Repatriation & Museums

Posted at 5:18 pm in Elgin Marbles

The Assistant director of the Benaki Museum in Athens has now given a lecture in Sydney, Australia about the Greek efforts to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles.

Sydney Morning Herald

Beautiful to look at, and then to return
May 4, 2005

Repatriation is a hot topic in museums, writes Alexa Moses.

Like a doting parent, Dr Stavros Vlizos doesn’t play favourites. All of the 163 figurines, ceramics, toys, icons, weapons, paintings and jewellery in the exhibition Greek treasures: from the Benaki Museum in Athens are his babies.

“They are all important – we brought the most representative and qualitative items,” the assistant to the Benaki Museum’s director says. As he walks around the Powerhouse Museum exhibition, he lovingly describes the pieces, including a marble female figurine from between 2700 and 2300 BC and an exquisite gold cup from 15th century BC decorated with three galloping dogs. Vlizos is in Sydney to launch the exhibition. He’s also here to campaign for some other objects he loves.
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May 1, 2005

The systematic looting of Italian antiquities

Posted at 4:20 pm in Similar cases

Greece may have had serious problems with looting of archaeological sites, but at least they have not had a Prime Minister like Berlusconi who wants to make the possessors of all looted artefacts within the country the legitimate owners at discount rates. I’d imagine that a lot of people are already buying up as much looted work as they can in anticipation of this change in the law so that they can then sell it on legally at market prices.

The Independent

The great smash and grab
01 May 2005

Italy is a treasure trove of buried antiquities. But now they are being systematically plundered by illegal tomb-raiders, who operate with virtual impunity. Rose George follows the loot from the hills of Lazio to London’s thriving black market

In an ordinary living-room in an ordinary, small Italian town, a young man shows off an ashtray. “Nice, isn’t it?” says “Gianni”, who prefers not to reveal his real name. The “ashtray” is a terracotta-coloured dish, painted around the rim, cracked and repaired. It looks nothing special, but it is, because it’s about 2,600 years old, because it was looted at night from a tomb in a field nearby, and because by keeping it on his mother’s sideboard, Gianni and his mother are criminals.
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April 30, 2005

Should looted artwork be returned to its rightful owners?

Posted at 12:00 pm in Similar cases

In response to the return of the Axum Obelisks to Ethiopia (covered in detail over the last month) the Boston Globe has an interesting article about other similar looted items, & points out that looting is still very much a current problem, not just a historical phase, as evidenced after the fall of Baghdad.

The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe
Return looted treasures to their rightful owners

By Grant Parker | April 30, 2005

LAST WEEK a cargo jet brought the first part of a 1,700-year-old Ethiopian pillar from Italy to its historic home in the city of Axum. The return of this treasure has great significance, not just for the Italian and Ethiopian governments, but for cultural property disputes worldwide.
Many, in Ethiopia and beyond, have welcomed its return. It ends decades of public outcry against successive Italian governments since Mussolini had the pillar — generally referred to as an obelisk but more correctly called a stele — brought from Axum in 1937, during the Italian wartime occupation.
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April 29, 2005

Sponsors may be invited to pay for Acropolis restoration works

Posted at 1:34 pm in Acropolis

In a change to the longstanding previous policy of trying to fund the entirety of the Acropolis restoration themselves, the Greek Government is now suggesting that private sponsors could also contribute money towards the restoration works. Quite possibly part of the cutbacks on spending that are facing many of the Greek government departments at present.


Friday April 29, 2005
Sponsors may be invited to pay for Acropolis works
Government says project will take another 16 years, 70 million euros

Dismayed by spiraling costs and a seemingly open-ended completion schedule for conservation works on Greece’s most iconic archaeological site, the government is thinking of seeking private sponsorship to expedite the Acropolis project.
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