Greece: Free our marbles from British Museum’s ‘murky prison’

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A man looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
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The 5th Century B.C. Parthenon temple atop the ancient Acropolis hill, while in the background ferries sale in the Saronic golf, in Athens. (AP Photo)
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Tourists take a picture in front of the temple of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Reuters)
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A man looks at exhibits at the Parthenon Hall of the Acropolis museum in Athens, Greece. (Reuters)
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A man looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
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Tourists are silhouetted as they walk inside the Acropolis Museum with the temple of Parthenon in the background in Athens. (Reuters)
Updated 15 April 2019

Greece: Free our marbles from British Museum’s ‘murky prison’

  • President Prokopis Pavlopoulos: Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum
  • Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule

ATHENS: Greece’s president called on Monday for Britain to free the Parthenon Marbles from the “murky prison” of its national museum, upping the rhetoric in a near 200-year-old campaign for the sculptures’ return.
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at Athens’ own glass-fronted Acropolis Museum, which campaigners hope will one day house the classical reliefs and figures taken by a British diplomat in the early nineteenth century.
“Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said.
There was no immediate response from the British Museum.
Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight.
Greece has repeatedly requested their return since its independence in 1832, and stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened its new museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill.
That building holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site.
“This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.”
The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.
The museum and other British institutions have also resisted other repatriation campaigns citing legislation preventing them from breaking up collections and arguing that they can preserve items and present them to an international audience.


Highlights from the Najd Collection set to auction at Sotheby’s

Forty works from Najd Collection will be auctioned at Sotheby’s on October 22. (Courtesy: Sotheby’s)
Updated 16 September 2019

Highlights from the Najd Collection set to auction at Sotheby’s

Here are some highlights from the Najd Collection, from which 40 works will be auctioned at Sotheby’s on October 22. 

Osman Hamdy Bey

Sotheby’s bills the Najd Collection as “one of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever assembled.” Before the auction, all 155 works will be travelling to New York, LA, Dubai and Paris for public viewing, including Bey’s “Koranic Instruction,” seen here.

Eugène Fromentin

Fromentin’s dramatic 1864 oil painting,“Windstorm on the Esparto Plains of the Sahara” — in which a storm menaces a group of horsemen with no shelter in sight — is expected to sell for between $490,000-$730,000. Fromentin was a French painter and writer best-known for his works featuring the land and people of Algeria. 

Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

“The King of Morocco Leaving to Receive a European Ambassador” is typical of the French painter and etcher’s work. Benjamin-Constant was well-known in his day (he received a state funeral in France in 1902), but has largely been forgotten since, perhaps because his work was so traditional.