The Elgin Marbles: Matters of Fact and Opinion
Posted: 5 Feb 2020
William St. Clair's article in 8 International Journal of Cultural Property 391-521 (1999) raised questions about the cleaning of the Parthenon marbles in London in the 1930s and about Elgin's so-called bribery of Turkish officials. The latter is here dismissed as normal practice. An account is given of the building and purpose of the Parthenon, its history to the end of the eighteenth century, then of the marbles taken to London and of those left in Athens. The cleaning is judged to have been no more than the comparable treatment of marbles in other museums, though vigorous in places, the intention being to make them intelligible to the visiting public, but resulting in no serious loss of detail or academic value. Finally, a personal viewpoint is given of the purposes for which ancient art is conserved, along with criteria for the optimum place of display for collections of cultural property of more than local importance in human history.
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