December 12, 2012
Sotheby’s didn’t sell the Elgin Marbles – they sold a marble sculpture that was legally purchased by Lord Elgin
Just like the auction of casts by Christies, this story might be connected to Lord Elgin & may also be connected to Marbles – but really has very little to do with the Elgin Marbles.
Art market news: Sotheby’s sell Elgin marble
Last week Sotheby’s sold a marble bust owned by Lord Elgin, aquired in from Rome in 1799 for $8.2 million (£5.1 million
By Colin Gleadell
3:22PM GMT 11 Dec 2012
Had it been one of the Greek marbles which Thomas Bruce, the 7th Lord Elgin, spirited out of the Parthenon in Athens, shipped home to England, and sold to the British Museum in 1816, then last week’s sale in New York would have been a front-page scandal. Not only are they owned by the British Museum, but the Greek government has for years been trying to negotiate their return to Athens. However, Sotheby’s did have a marble bust which the same Lord Elgin acquired at that time, not from the Parthenon, but from Rome, which was never sold and has stayed in the family ever since. In 1799, shortly before his departure for Constantinople, where he was to be British ambassador to the Sultan, and from where he was to conduct the removal of the Parthenon marbles, the Earl instructed his private secretary, William Robert Hamilton, to go to Rome and buy “marbles” for his ambassadorial residence. Among these marbles was a portrait bust of Germanicus (pictured), the father of the Emperor Caligula, showing him as a young heroic figure.
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