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Four of the finest ancient Greek sculptures are kept in museums far from their homeland

By on November 7, 2022 0

The UK government even appears opposed to negotiating the return of the Parthenon sculptures, although a plethora of polls from the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent and yougov.uk indicate that the UK general public is in favor of the return.

This subject is of course not new.

The movement to return Greek marble (preserved in the British museum for over 200 years) to their homeland began in the 1980s, when the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, launched the global campaign International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Moreover, during a debate on the return of the Elgin Marbles which was broadcast on a program of the intelligence squared show in Britain, one of the UK’s most prestigious actors and writers, Stephen Fry, said:

“HHow amazing it would be to see these extraordinary pieces of Pentelic marble brought back within 5 miles of Mount Pentelicus, where the marble was quarried and where this extraordinary Parthenon temple was erected.

Everything revolves around Athens! There were 192 soldiers on the friezes, as 192 soldiers died in the Battle of Marathon.

“It’s absurd to have the torso of a statue here and the head in Athens,” he added emphatically.

And that was around the time of the Battle of Marathon where Periclean Athens saw the rise of everything our culture now depends on philosophy, logic, Euclidean mathematics, empiricism, history, geometry, astronomy and justice.

“It’s not just about being fair, it’s about showing our morality and the depth we have towards Greece, which created what we now call Western Civilization,” Mr. Fry emphasized in front of an audience giving his argument.

The debate ended with 72% of the UK public voting live to return, 23% voting against and 5% remaining undecided.

But it wasn’t just the Elgin Marbles and the Parthenon friezes that were removed from Greece.

Some of the most magnificent Greek sculptures and pieces of Greek art can be found in various museums around the world, proudly representing the country in which they were born.

Nike of Samothrace – Louvre Museum, Paris (Νίκη της Σαμοθράκης)

Greek sculptures Nike of Samothrace
Nike of Samothrace

The Nike of Samothrace – also known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace – is a Greek marble sculpture that depicts the winged goddess Nike.

It was created in Hellenistic times and found in the Temple of the Great Gods Where Kaveira in the island of Samothrace.

The majestic Greek statue has been on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1884, and although the name of its sculptor remains unknown, the statue’s fame has reached to the ends of the earth and has remained a symbol representing Greek art in the world. world.

It is estimated to have been created in the 2n/a century BC and adorned the Shrine of the Great Gods in Samothrace.

Many say it was a tribute to Demetrius the Besieger, who defeated Ptolemy’s fleet in 290 BC, or it was dedicated to the island of Samothrace by the Rhodians when they defeated Antiochus III of Syria in a naval battle.

Nike has been reconnected with all of its discovered pieces which have been excavated separately over the years – Nike’s head and left hand have never been found – and while the statue was damaged and broken during its transfer to Paris , a team of experts repaired the damage.

In 2014 the Louvre Museum raised a total of €4,000,000 from sponsors around the world to restore the statue and then built its right wing, which is now attached to the statue and is a mirror image of the wing original left.

In addition to the statue in France, a replica is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Samothrace in Greece and another Roman replica in Vienna.

Greek sculptures Nike of Samothrace
Nike of Samothrace staircase
Greek sculptures Nike of Samothrace
Nike of Samothrace

Venus De Milo – Louvre Museum, Paris (Αφροδίτη της Μήλου)

Greek sculptures Venus de Milo
Venus De Milo – Louvre Museum, Paris (Αφροδίτη της Μήλου)

A unique creation from the late Hellenistic period, the 2-meter-tall, 900-kilogram Venus de Milo marble statue depicts Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, half-naked wearing only a tied robe around her hips.

Initially, Venus De Milo (Aphrodite of Milos) was believed to be the work of Praxiteles or Skopas. Yet today, the statue is firmly believed to be the work of sculptor Alexander of Antioch.

In April 1820, at Klima on the island of Milos, a farmer named Georgios or Theodoros Kentrotas found the female statue while digging in his field.

A French warship was already located in Milos, searching for Greek sculptures. The crew chief, officer Olivier Boutier, negotiates with the Turks, who do not understand the immense value of Greek sculpture.

Thus Boutier succeeded in acquiring the Venus De Milo and shipping it directly to France.

Aphrodite’s two missing hands were destroyed either during the excavation by the French crew or during transport to Paris. Yet despite her incredible adventures, Aphrodite remains one of the most exceptional works of art to date.

It is therefore not surprising that at the Louvre in Paris, the most visited museum in the world, the three most important attractions for millions of tourists each year are Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic Mona Lisa as well as two Greek sculptures. : the Nike of Samothrace and the Venus De Milo.

Greek sculptures Venus de Milo

Pergamon Altar – Pergamon Museum, Berlin (Βωμός της Περγάμου)

Greek Sculptures Pergamon Altar
Greek Sculptures Pergamon Altar

The Pergamon Altar is an altar dedicated to Zeus and Athena built in Hellenistic times on the citadel of Pergamon in Asia Minor.

The sculptures and friezes of the altar represent the famous Gigantomachia (combat of the giants), where the composition of the bodies, the intricate representation of detail in the contractions of the muscles and the folds of the sleeves, and the intensity of their intertwining, all recreated as one of the finest sets ever seen by the human eye.

The altar was built by order of Eumenes II of the Seleucid generation in honor of the father of Attalus AD. He reigned in Pergamon after his victory against the Gauls.

It was built around 181-159 BC. It was discovered between 1878 and 1886 by the German archaeologist Karl Humann, who agreed with the Ottomans to send all the discovered sculptures to a special museum in Berlin and to remodel the altar.

During transport, the sculptures and friezes were damaged and collapsed. However, later in Berlin, a team of Italian restorers reassembled the panels making up the frieze from the thousands of fragments that had been recovered.

In 1901 a new museum was erected on Berlin’s Museum Island to display the reassembled altar, but this proved both inadequate and structurally unsound to accommodate the large altar, so it was demolished in 1909 and replaced by a much larger museum that opened. to the public in 1930.

Even though the new museum contained objects from various collections from different countries, the townspeople decided to name it the Pergamon Museum in honor of the Pergamon Altar and because the museum was built with Greek altar architecture in mind.

Greek Sculptures Pergamon Altar

The Parthenon Marbles – British Museum, London (Τα Μάρμαρα του Παρθενώνα)

Greek Sculptures Parthenon Marbles
The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, are a collection of sculptures

The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, are a collection of sculptures from the Parthenon temple of the Acropolis in Athens which were brought to Britain in 1806 after being violently removed from the Parthenon by Thomas Bruce, 7e Earl of Elgin.

Lord Elgin was the first British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Although Turkey had declared war on France and Napoleon’s Britain, Lord Elgin was highly valued by the Turkish authorities as he offered them an expensive gift in exchange for various favors, whether or not he engaged with the enemy.

In the 1800s, Lord Elgin was designing the decoration of his mansion in Scotland and seeking to decorate it with ancient Greek carvings. So he hired a team of artists to make copies of Greek statues for his own property.

After negotiating with the Turks, Elgin arbitrarily, and of course, disregarding the Greek people, removed 50% of the Parthenon sculptures while damaging the majority.

However, his greed didn’t end there as he removed coins from nearby temples and the Erechtheion. The result was that many of these statues, which were built by the Athenian sculptor Phidias for the city of Athens, were dismembered.

Elgin is said to have received a license, albeit limited and conditional, from a Turkish vizier, which allowed him to take some of the pieces of the Parthenon – which belonged to Greece and its people, who were never requested – to England .

The key question is whether this license allows Elgin to use huge saws and other tools to completely tear out of the temple (causing severe damage to the monument) half of his carvings.

“The Greeks say no. Archaeologists and historians, including the British, say no. UNESCO says no, Members of the European Parliament say no. To his great surprise, Lord Elgin himself said no!“, said Jules Dassinin, legendary American director and oscar winner, about the subject.

Specifically, Elgin in his letters mentioned that: It was not part of my original plan to take anything other than casts with me. The Turkish government categorically denied that the people who sold the marbles to us had the right to dispose of them,Dassin wrote.

It is sad that during the Turkish occupation, all kinds of European “archaeologists” searched for the ancient Greek treasures for personal gain and exploitation.

The British, Germans and French organized excursions to locate and recover valuable Greek sculptures and works of art that symbolize Greek history and culture.

They simply “compensated” the local Ottoman commanders to obtain excavation and research permits if necessary. Yet museums across Europe attract millions of people around the world each year to these sculptures.

In the words of Mélina Mercouri: “I hope to see the Marbles again in Athens before I die. But if they come later, I will be reborn.”

May Greek sculptures one day reconnect with their missing parts in the country where they were made.

greek sculptures
greek sculptures
Sculptures missing from the Parthenon

Read more from Greek City Times:

Replica Parthenon sculptures push British Museum to return originals to Greece in 2023

NEW EVIDENCE: Lord Elgin ‘smuggled’ Parthenon sculptures to Britain; paid no customs tax

Key words:
Pergamon Altar, Aphrodite of Milos, British Museum, Count of Elgin, Elgin Marbles, Eumenes II, Gigantomachy, Greek Marbles, Jules Dassinin, Karl Humann, Kaveira, Lord Elgin, Louvre Museum, Melina Kanakaredes, Museum Island , Nike, Nike of Samothrace, Oliview Boutier, Parthenon marbles, Pergamon Altar, Pergamon Museum, Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Stephen Fry, Temple of the Great Gods, Parthenon marbles, Thomas Bruce, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace