The location of the Parthenon Marbles and their acquisition has to be rethought in the light of a different world.

If you know a great deal about this subject we hope that what we have written here will continue to engage you, and if you know nothing at all, that this will help you find greater understanding.

Janet Suzman

BCRPM's Chair, Janet Suzman re-writes refutations to the 'old objections'.  

theatre acropolis

The Acropolis Museum in Athens is the best place to view the sculptures from the Parthenon and appreciate why so many voices have added their support to the reunification of a peerless work of art that continues to be divided, mainly between the British Museum in London and the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

The Duveen Gallery's display of the Parthenon marbles is a disgrace

"The Duveen Gallery's display of the Parthenon marbles is a disgrace" - see both Chris Hitchens's book and Mary Beard's.

The Gallery is of the same dimensions as the Parthenon building - Sir Joseph Duveen insisted on that as a condition of his 'gift' of £1m. 

But there just less than 50 per cent of the frieze is displayed so as to give the false impression that it's complete.

More honestly, the Acropolis Museum in Athens indicates clearly where pieces are missing and has delicately placed small notices with the initials BM beneath those spaces. 

BM parthenon gallery

The frieze is moreover displayed on the inner walls of an interior room. [not - as on the original - on the outside.]

The New Acropolis Museum displays theirs [also less than 50 per cent the right way round - and] in sight of the original building (which still stands), and most particularly, with streams of Attica daylight pouring through the huge windows facing the Acropolis instead of the muted and depressing lighting of interior Bloomsbury. "

London and Athens

Where are the Parthenon marbles best dislayed?

Check out Professor Sandis' 'Against Principles' article here.

Read here why it continues to be a cultural outrage that this peerless work of art continues to be divided, mainly between Athens & London.

BCRPM acknowledge that the British Museum, with its vast and important collection, is preeminent among the great museums of the world, particularly so for its standards of curation, display, research and education. We question however the concept of the universal/world/encyclopaedic museum and its justification for the continued impairment of one the most magnificent examples of world art.

We continue to remember Christopher Hitchen's words as the Acropolis Museum prepared to open its doors to the public in June 2009:

The Acropolis Museum has hit on the happy idea of exhibiting, for as long as following that precedent is too much to hope for, its own original sculptures with the London-held pieces represented by beautifully copied casts. This has two effects: It allows the visitor to follow the frieze round the four walls of a core "cella" and see the sculpted tale unfold (there, you suddenly notice, is the "lowing heifer" from Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn). And it creates a natural thirst to see the actual re-assembly completed. So, far from emptying or weakening a museum, this controversy has instead created another one, which is destined to be among Europe's finest galleries. And one day, surely, there will be an agreement to do the right thing by the world's most "right" structure.


Emanuel Comino pays tribute to William G Stewart

Emanuel with William G Stewart

Emanuel with William in London, January 2000

"I was very saddened to hear of the death of Mr William G. Stewart, a good friend and great supporter for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Hellas.

I saw his excellent TV presentation on the Marbles campaign that was made for Channel 4 in the late 90's. I then had the privilege of meeting William in London in January 2000 and had long discussions on the campaign together with Graham Binns and Eleni Cubitt from the BCRPM.

We met again in Athens in May 2000 during a 3-day Conference for the Marbles held at the Grand Bretagne Hotel. We spent many hours discussing the campaign, together with William St Clair and the then American Committee chairman for the Parthenon Marbles the late Anthi Poulos and others.

William became a friend and will continue to be regarded as a great campaigner for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. We are all going to miss his friendliness, enthusiasm for the cause and beautiful smile."

Emanuel Comino, Founder and Chairman

International Organising Committee – Australia – For The Restitution Of The Parthenon Marbles.


New vision for the British Museum

04, July, 2017 Adam Sherwin from reports on the British Museum Director's new vision.

Dr Hartwig Fischer's vision as Director of the British Museum includes providing space to objects that have lost their world and have not been displayed before. Opening, this year will be three major new galleries devoted to the Islamic world, China and South Asia, and Japan.

Adam writes:'the Parthenon sculptures will retain their prominent position.' And yet when considering the BM as a repository of objects that have lost their world, it is these very same sculptures that deserve unity as close as possible to the building they were once a part of. The Parthenon is an iconic building that still stands and the Acropolis Museum's Parthenon Gallery allows millions of visitors from all over the globe to see thse sculptures, with perfect views to the Parthenon too. 

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The British Committee has been campaigning since 1983 for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. As a peerless work of art, the sculptures, currently and for the last 200 years have been fragmented, almost evenly divided, mainly between two great cities - Athens and London. As millions of visitors have seen them in Athens, the movement calling for their reunification has not lost its voice, it has amplified. The Parthenon Marbles deserve to be seen in context and in the superlative Acropolis Museum.

To read Adam Sherwin's article, follow the link here  .

outside BM small

And in the Financial Times (07 July 2017), an article by Jan Dalley on Dr Hartwig Fischer's vision for the British Museum.

BCRPM's conference 07 June 2017, marked 200 years from the date in 1816 when the British Parliament voted to purchase from Lord Elgin his collection of sculpted marbles collected from the Parthenon and elsewhere on the Athenian Acropolis.


Runciman Award Interview with Paul Cartledge

What suggested that you write this book? Was it your knowledge of the ancient world and Greece's political systems, or concerns about the modern world?


paul cart  A combination. I think I'm a kind of 'natural' democrat in the sense of being (an) anti-elitist egalitarian, but it wasn't until I was a student first at the University of California and then Oxford that I got a chance to show my true democratic colours, e.g. by picketing All Souls College in 1969 bearing a placard inviting the Fellows to democratise themselves (I've blogged about this on the Oxford Today alumni website). It was at the same time that I started to learn about the world's first democracy, Athens, in a 'scientific', scholarly sort of way - through studying at New College with Geoffrey de Ste. Croix e.g. the reforms attributed to Cleisthenes (was he a genuinely disinterested proto-democratic reformer, or was he just in it for what he and his aristocratic family could get out of the new system? Discuss) and Aristophanes's comic satires of crooked democratic populists and gullible democratic masses. I 'got the vote' in 1968 - the voting age was then 21. But I spent half the 'seventies teaching at Trinity College Dublin where I was disfranchised between my ages of 26 and 31. My book is based directly on four years of 24-lecture courses given to final-year Cambridge undergraduates reading for both the Classical and the History triposes. It thus represents the mature fruit of three to four more decades of reflection and analysis combined with practical democratic participation. It appeared in March/April 2016 in the middle of the extended campaign leading up to the June 23 Brexit referendum and in the same year as the Trump USA presidential election: as I regularly tell audiences of all ages and kinds from age 14/15 upwards, 2016 was the most extraordinary year for Democracy in my entire adult life so far. And 'extraordinary' not necessarily in a good way. I wish - sadly - that more of my fellow-citizens were more aware of and led lives more informed by proper awareness of democracy's historical roots; political philosophers have interpreted the world, in their various ways, but the point is - somehow - to change it. For the better.

Read the full interview by visiting here.

Further elaboration of the views given above may be found in the following podcast:


The X-Factor of ancient Athens

Ben Ramm 

With the UK general election happening tomorrow 08 June 2017, we revisit a thought provoking culture article written by Benjamin Ramm on the 24th of April for the BBC's Global News website.

Benjamin Ramm is a member of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles and in the article entitled 'The X-factor of ancient Athens', he examines how everyday citizens became the judges of an ancient prize for drama that challenged popular opinion and rewarded subtlety and intelligence. He concludes that this was an experiment that shaped not just the theatre, but democracy itself.

theatre acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus, situated at the foot of the Acropolis,                                                                  could accommodate up to 17,000 audience members and was                                                               considered to have perfect acoustics

To read the full article, please visit BBC's Global News web site, here

According to Professor Paul Cartledge, of the University of Cambridge and Vice-Chair for the BCRPM, Athenian theatre was "democracy in action". It describes the comedic genre as a combination of the bawdy and the satirical. Contemporary comparisons are revealing, particularly in relation to shows that involve voting. Cartledge says that, unlike The X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, the performances were "a much more public, communal and collective political act. It was quite unlike the private experience of sitting in your own home, watching a distant event on television, where you're not face to face in conversation with your fellow judges and audience members."

Benjamin Ramm adds 'it is tempting to suggest that the playwrights achieved popularity without resorting to populism. Theatre was regarded as education for citizenship, and Athenians were wary about appeals to base political instincts – the city even instituted a practise called ostracism, in which potentially demagogic figures were voted into exile for a decade. Despite the presence of a chorus, the plays have no guiding narrator, and in true democratic style, present a variety of voices and arguments.'

Athenian drama continues to be a fertile source of inspiration and fellow BCRPM member, Professor Edith Hall describes Tony Harrison's 1998 film Prometheus as "the most important artistic reaction to the fall of the British working class". Adapted from a play often attributed to Aeschylus, the film is an imaginative interpretation of ancient myth against a backdrop of industrial decay. For Hall, "it provides overwhelming proof that capitalism and classicism need not go hand in hand".

Benjamin Ramm concludes that the 'theatre of democracy has a powerful global legacy, evident in the recent retelling of The Trojan Women by Syrian refugees. The women, exiled in Jordan, interweave their experiences into Euripides' ancient text. But which testimonies are theirs, and which are those of the women of Troy? Across cultures and time, from Athens to Amman, the performers are unified by their need to articulate the horrors of war. In the words of The Phoenician Women (408 BCE), from nearby Lebanon: "It is slavery not to speak one's thoughts."

Further reading, Democracy A Life, by Professor Paul Cartledge and Professor Edith Hall's Theatrical Cast of Athens.

For  Benjaminn Ramm's interview with Professor Paul Cartledge after his book Democracy, A Life was published last year, visit here.


Against Principles

constantine In an article published in The Forum on 03 April 2017, Constantine Sandis, argues for a holistic approach to museums.

Constantine is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a a member of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

When leaving Athens, don't buy ouzo at the Duty Free. The aperitif is divine when poured over ice under the Attic sun, but largely disagreeable in rainy England. This rather simple observation, that cultural artefacts have varying effects in the context of different locations and the moving populations around them, is seriously downplayed within cultural heritage debates appealing to moral and museological principles. I stand against the grain, advocating that we shouldn't prescribe any general rules determining the location in which cultural artefacts whose ownership is contested ought to be housed. As populations, identities, and technologies shift with unprecedented velocity, debates regarding the ownership of antiquity are fast becoming antiquated, while the question of where and how they should be exhibited—if indeed they should be exhibited at all—has never been so timely.

Read the full article here.

Constantine concludes that 'there cannot be any helpful hard-and-fast rules determining the location of objects whose provenance is a matter of controversy. Decisions should instead be made on a case-by-case basis, considering a wide range of reasons: moral, aesthetic, educational, distributional, legal, historical, pragmatic, and psycho-geographical. No principle is so high that it alone can settle the question of where any single cultural artefact should be located, let alone all. A corollary of this holistic conclusion is that it is not as easy for precedents to be set as some museum experts and defenders of 'heritage' in the abstract allege. No floodgates would be opened if the Parthenon sculptures were to be rightly re-unified under one Athenian roof, or the statue of Cecil Rhodes to at long last fall from Oriel College, any more than they were when Jesus College, Cambridge removed its Benin bronze cockerel last year. The damage done by holding onto principles in museology is as great as the gains to be had by freeing ourselves from them.'

Constantine Sandis' edited volume Cultural Heritage Ethics: Between Theory and Practice is available in Open Access. His research interests include philosophy of action, moral psychology, and heritage ethics.


Florence conference addresses the Parthenon Marbles and Italian Committee adds it's voice to the campaign

17-19 February in Florence, at the Palazzo dei Congressi in the 19th Century Villa Vittoria, surrounded by historical gardens, the tourismA 8th International meeting's Part III was also dedicated to the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Louis Godart, advisor of the President of the Italian Republic for Culture for the past 15 years and recently elected Chairman for the IARPS (International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures), has now formed an Italian Committee to campaign for the marbles on home ground. Louis Godart addressed the conference on the issue of the Parthenon Marbles alongside Greek Minister of Culture Lydia Koniordou.

koniourdouFor Minister Koniordou the marbles are important not just for Greece but for world heritage as a whole. She stressed the importance of integrity for works of art, with the sculptures from the Parthenon being a prime example of the need for integrity.

"There is the commitment of the Greek Government to continue to seek the reunification of this unique symbol, which is also the symbol that upholds democracy and freedom of speech and provides us all with the acceptance of the each other." Commented Minister Lydia Koniordou.   

"I ask that the newborn Italian Committee along with the other 25 Committees around the world unite their voices to campaign for what most people would like to see, a reunited display of the Parthenon marbles" concluded Minister Lydia Koniordou.

godartLouis Godart added: "Italy and Greece must wage a joint campaign. If we think about it, it was Rome that presented to Italy and the world, the message of classical Greece. It is therefore imperative that in this struggle for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles, Italy stands firmly beside Greece. We must consider that the Parthenon is not just a monument but one that represents our democratic Europe" concluded Godart.

An Italian article that reviews the conference and both the comments made by the Greek Minister Lydia Koniordouand Louis Godart can be read on this link.

Stefania Berutti, the Secretary for the newly formed Italian Committee was interviewed in Italian, on a radio programme called 'Let's Dig Again' and you can follow this by clicking on this link.

Architecture and a very specific building, the Parthenon that has history and great cultural significance

The founder of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, James Cubitt, was a British architect.

jascubit0001 web

On 02 December, 2008 at the RIBA, architect Bernard Tschumi and Professor Pandermails headed up the event: 'Presenting the new Acropolis Museum'.

Ahead of this presentation Peter Aspden, wrote in the inancial Times, you can read his article, here. And the letter that the Finacial Times printed by John Kapranos Huntley.

In 2009 Tom Flynn as a member of BCRPM, wrote to the RIBA to seek their advice on the BCRPM's on-going campaign and because the Parthenon, a landmark building, still stands.

09 flynn

The BCRPM's campaign explains that the sculptures removed by Lord Elgin in the 19th century were integral architectural members of the Parthenon, the building which still stands on the Acropolis.

'As every human life is unique and no one can predetermine how it will be carried out, it could be said that the human being bears a historical duality: the individual history, or education, and the collective history, or culture.

Both dimensions, education and culture, constitute the conceptual basis of all human action, defining values and the most appropriate means to achieve them. These dimensions can be viewed materially in cities through the urban landscape, the preservation of buildings and other heritage. Thus, the city is a record of human actions that remain in time, and architecture is a concrete example of the knowledge accumulated by countless individuals over successive generations. For that reason, architecture is a tool for understanding a certain period of time in the history of a people, culture or even civilization, since it shows the evolution of mankind's ingenuity, as well as its sense of harmony and values.'

Read more from the Arch Daily article 'The Role of Tradition and Innovation in the city', here.

acropolis small

When most of us visit Athens, even if we aren't there to see the Acropolis or its museum, we may catch a glimpse of the Acropolis as we ride a taxi or bus in the centre of town. We may be fortunate enough to be dining in one of the centrally located Athenian hotels with top floor restaurant and stunning views by day or night, year round - to the Acropolis. Magical views.

acropolis night small


Before the Acropolis was a temple complex, it was a city - another great article in Arch Daily, worth reading too, from here.

'Although the marble stonework of the Parthenon had proven its durability against the ravages of time, it was not indestructible. In 1687, Venetian forces laying siege to Athens shelled the ancient city, igniting a powder magazine stored inside the Parthenon. The resulting explosion was catastrophic, obliterating the cella and the elaborate frieze that had adorned its exterior. Attempts by the Venetians to remove statues from the pediments were similarly disastrous, as multiple sculptures fell to the ground and were shattered beyond repair. Most of the remaining statues and reliefs (known as the "Elgin" or "Parthenon Marbles") were later spirited away in the early 19th Century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Controversially, these pieces are displayed in the British Museum to this day. Meanwhile, the Parthenon itself has since undergone rigorous restoration and preservation work, with much of the damaged peristyle reassembled to give modern visitors a glimpse of the temple's ancient splendour atop the hill where it has stood for over two thousand years.'





Professor Katherine Schwab on ancient hairstyles and drawings that continue to engage museum visitors

Professor Katherine Schwab, was interviewed by one of Greece’s newspaper websites, Greece Is, about her research on ancient Greece’s most famous hairstyles, those of the Caryatids, the sculptures that stand in place of columns in the south porch of the Acropolis in Athens.


The Erechtheion or Erechtheum  tweet


The Erechtheion or Erechtheum, Acropolis, Athens (Greece)


In the article, Schwab, who is an art history professor and expert in Greek and Roman art and architecture, said she first noticed these intricate hairstyles about a decade ago while studying archival photographs taken at the Greek temple by the German photographer Gösta Hellner.


The marble sculptures, whose female figures where carved nearly 2,500 years ago, are remarkably well-preserved and their hairstyles provide a wealth of information about the role that hair had and continues to have in societies today.


Professor Kathy Schwab



Professor Katherine Shwab

"Among the most remarkable things we discovered during this project is that hair  has a great significance. Hair can symbolize rites of passage, personal identity, status, cultural identity and much more. Research on these ancient hairstyles can lead in many directions and result in a wealth of information about the role of hair then and now. The hairstyles worn by the ancient Caryatids, are unusual and seem to belong to an earlier tradition. This is probably why they would have been worn only for very special occasions. In part, these hairstyles linked these maidens to past traditions within Athenian society, forming a bridge across time and generations." Commented Professor Schwab.


As part of her research project at Fairfield University where she teaches, Schwab invited students to have their hair styled in the historic braids, which was captured in a video that documented the recreation of six individual hairstyles of the Caryatids.


Schwab’s research also includes drawings of the Parthenon, where she devised a technique to show what remains of ancient sculptures in order to determine the original compositions.  Copies of her drawings are part of the permanent installation in the Acropolis Museum’s Parthenon Gallery.

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The Caryatids in the Acropolis Museum, Athens (Greece)


caryatid close up tweet


Fashionable fishtale braids, created by the ancients, continue to be recreated today for special occassions

Schwab’s notes, and the originals were obtained for a travelling exhibit in the U.S. that began in 2014 in New York City. The exhibit toured many colleges and universities. 

Professor Schwab will receive the 2017 Distinguished Faculty award at Fairfield University’s annual dinner and awards event in NYC in March this year. 


Professor Schwab continues to visit the Acropolis Museum every year.


“Grayscale scans of my metope drawings are part of the installation in the Parthenon Gallery and to have them included is a great privilege for which I am very thankful. You can see them on the frames holding the east and the north metopes. My hope is that the drawings bring attention to the metopes which were originally highly visible in antiquity. The scans of my drawings, combined with the original metopes, engage the museum visitor in considering the original composition and what has been lost. Thanks to Professor Pantermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum, it’s possible for me to draw in the Parthenon Gallery for many hours each day during my research trips to Athens. Sometimes visitors come over and talk to me to ask what I’m working on and they become quite curious about the Parthenon’s sculptural programme and the research conducted by archaeologists. They’re often surprised that research on the Parthenon carries on and will do so for many more years to come.” Concludes Professor Shwab


Museums: letting the genie out of the bottle

Tristram Besterman was the keynote speaker at the London 07 June 2016 commemorative event organised by the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in conjunction with:

The International Organizing Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles Inc. (IOC-A-RPM) and the South African Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (SACRPM).

The event marked 200 years from the date in 1816 when the British Parliament voted to purchase from Lord Elgin his collection of sculpted marbles collected from the Parthenon and elsewhere on the Athenian Acropolis.

To date and despite many requests made by Greece, the British Government and the British Museum are not looking to find ways to reunite what is a peerless work of art. For more information on the UK Government and British Museum's position, please click here.

Keynote speaker for the event was Tristram Besterman and his paper entitled, Museums: letting the genie out of the bottle, provided all that attended with food for thought.

Placing the debate around the contested Parthenon sculptures in the context of the 21st century museum, Tristram reflected on the democratically accountable museum, his own involvement in repatriation and how we should open up the museum as a space where other voices are heard. Far from a betrayal of Enlightenment values, museums are true to their roots when they challenge orthodoxy and reframe authenticity.

To read Tristram's paper, please click here.

Tristram Besterman is a freelance adviser and writer on museums and issues of cultural identity, dispossession and restitution. He draws on over forty years of experience of leading, managing, and developing museums in the public realm in the UK.

Following a brief stint with the BBC in London, Tristram's first job in a museum was in Sydney in 1974. There he discovered that his interest in public communication also called upon the scientific training he'd received at Cambridge. On a visit to Canberra, Tristram witnessed the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside the national Parliament building, a scene that raised his own awareness of Aboriginal rights in Australia.

On his return to the UK, Tristram's subsequent museum career took him via Sheffield, Warwick and Plymouth to the Manchester Museum, where he was director from 1994 until 2005. In 2003, the Manchester Museum repatriated a number of human remains to Australian Aboriginal representatives, one of the first UK museums to do so. To read more on this, click here.

For over two decades Tristram was influential in the development of museum ethics in the UK and internation­ally, and was Convener of the Museums Association Ethics Committee from 1994 to 2001. He redrafted and renegotiated the definition of a new kind of socially reflexive museum for the profession. This underpinned the publication of the Code of Ethics for Museums which was adopted by the Museums Association in 2002. A radical departure from the object-focus of its predecessor, at the heart of the new Code was the museum's accountability to society.

He has served on a number of national bodies in the cultural sector, including the UK Government's Ministerial Working Group on Human Remains from 2001 to 2004. Trained as a civil mediator, Tristram has been an advocate for and instrumental in the repatriation of human remains to source communities in Australia and New Zealand from Manchester, Brighton and the British Museum. He contributes to the literature on cultural restitution and is currently involved in an academic study of the cross-cultural understanding and friendship that can develop between participants in repatriation.

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The Restitution, Repatriation, and Return of Cultural Objects: The Parthenon Debate

Kevin P Ray has written a lucid and timely analysis of the knotty problems facing any attempt to achieve a legal resolution of the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles: which court would be competent to hear a case about an alleged transgression, the details of which are in dispute, by Lord Elgin of the terms of a licence, the precise status of which is unclear, under the legal system of a country, the Ottoman Empire, which no longer exists, brought two centuries later by a national state, Greece, which first came into being only at a later date, and if such a court could be found, how would it enforce its judgement? 


He considers The Hague Convention (there was no armed conflict involved),  the UNESCO Convention (not retrospective) and the UNIDROIT Convention (the UK is not a signatory).  He suggests the need for the articulation of a "new rule of customary international law", which does not currently exist, relying on these conventions together with the ECHR and the 1993 EU Directive on the Return of Cultural Objects, but points out the limitations even of this.


He concludes by suggesting that the situation may continue to be intractable unless the differing parties are prepared to move the question on from recrimination and disputes over title and ownership, with absolute positions and national and political emotions set aside and a new emphasis on flexibility, negotiation and mutual benefit.  


Original links  to Kevin Ray's article on the Parthenon sculptures debate: Part I and Part II

Kevin P RayKevin Ray is Of Counsel in the Chicago office of Greenberg Traurig LLP.  He focuses his practice in the areas of art and cultural heritage law and financial services (lending transactions and restructuring/insolvency matters).  He represents and advises artists, art galleries, art collectors, museums and cultural institutions in a variety of transactions, including consignments, questions of title, provenance, and compliance with national and international law.  He advises lenders and debtors on issues unique to art, antiquities and other cultural property in a variety of lending and commercial transactions.  Prior to practicing law, Kevin was director of rare books, manuscripts and art collections at Washington University in St. Louis and taught at the Washington University School of Art.

Kevin is the author of Art and Cultural Property (forthcoming, American Bar Association Press, 2016), is a frequent speaker and writer on art and cultural heritage law issues, and is a frequent contributor to Greenberg Traurig's art and cultural property lawblog, Cultural Assets ( )

Ways to stand alone

Tiffany book   The photograph on the dust jacket of Tiffany Jenkins’s Keeping Their Marbles shows a museum display of breathtaking elegance and beauty. Two dozen small fragments of marble sculptures seem to float in mid-air, fixed to one another and to the plain white base of the display with simple brushed steel rods. A good threequarters of the original sculptural group is lost, but the viewer’s imagination fills in the gaps with little effort. At the left, a female figure dashes in, reaching towards a rearing horse, perhaps pulling at its flying reins; at the centre, two huge figures, one male, one female, stand locked in struggle. In the sculptures, everything is motion and energy. By contrast, the gallery space that surrounds them is crisp and minimalist, with nothing to distract the viewer’s attention from the astonishing objects on show – except perhaps the wooded hills just visible outside the window, with the sun setting behind them. It is hard to imagine a better illustration of the book’s subtitle: “How the treasures of the past ended up in museums . . . and why they should stay there”.

The photo shows the surviving sculptures from the west pediment of the Parthenon, displayed with sensitivity and tact in a museum space of the most extraordinary beauty. The museum in the photograph is the Acropolis Museum in the city of Athens, one of the world’s truly great museums, which houses not a single item looted, stolen, or bought from a country poorer than the Athenians’ own. The female figure on the left, a study in kinetic energy, is the goddess Iris. The head of the goddess is original, but her body is a plaster cast; Iris’s body today stands in the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum. Dull is the eye, wrote Byron, that will not weep. He was right.

Read the full article by Peter Thonemann on Tiffany Jenkins' book here

Ways to stand alone TLS.pdf 

The article was printed on 29 April 2016

Peter Thonemann Dr Peter Thonemann

The following week (06 May)  the Editor printed a  letter submitted by a reader, James Hall from Winchester: 

1GL-Letters to the Editor-0fff06.pdf

There was, as you might have anticipated, a long set of email exchanges amongst BCRPM members.

Anthony Snodgrass  Hon President Prof Anthony Snodgrass wrote a reply to the letter by James Hall.

Sir,   -   The odd cultural judgment apart  -  Byron as an ‘opportunistic buffoon’ -the great length of James Hall’s letter on the Parthenon Marbles (May 6) is down to the number of factual misstatements, some new, some worn by repetition, that he insists on including.   There is no space to do more than list them, before picking out what is perhaps the prize specimen.  

‘Most large sculptures in Greek museums have been stripped from temples (unearthed, not ‘stripped’  -  that was left to Elgin);  ‘imported slaves built the Parthenon’ (a tendentious exaggeration);  ‘the National Museum contains work from colonies throughout the Aegean’ (a devious word-play on the associations of the word ‘colony’);  the Acropolis Museum is ‘poorly attended’ (yet it somehow attracts greater numbers than that minority of British Museum visitors who actually enter the Duveen Gallery);  ‘Those professionally involved with Greece presumably fear for career and well-being if they come out in favour of retention’ (he must be alone in so presuming).  

As a member of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, I am flattered that he credits our movement with ‘great social, political and academic clout’, but that is surely another exaggeration;  and it is equally far-fetched to call our opponents ‘a silent majority’ when they are neither silent nor a majority  -  as a glance, respectively, at the reactionary press or at a series of periodic U.K. opinion polls will show.

But:  ‘the Marbles have been well loved, treated and contextualized’ in Bloomsbury’  -  that is going too far.   Well contextualized in the acknowledged ‘joylessness’ of the Duveen Gallery, with the frieze turned inside out and the arrangement doctored to hide the gaps ?   And was James Hall around in 1999 when the British Museum hosted a colloquium on the ‘cleaning’ operation, carried out sixty years earlier at Duveen’s insistence, where one of its own Keepers described the cleaning as ‘a scandal, and the cover-up … another scandal’ ?   Many of the London sculptures lost up to a millimetre of their surface in that operation;  to see the original surface detail of the frieze slabs, one must revert to the pieces in Athens that had been ‘at the mercy of the toxic elements’  -  well yes, but these have still turned out to be more merciful than the chisels and abrasives of Duveen.