The Story of The Elgin Marbles At The British Museum

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


The remaining part of a sculpture from the west pediment of the Parthenon. 

Around 490 BCE, on the peak of the Acropolis, Athenians began building a temple to Athena Parthenos. It was unfinished when the Persians sacked Athens soon after, and then in 438 BCE was completed by Pericles as a temple to the goddess Athena. No expense was spared — even the roof was covered in the finest white marble rather than the usual terra cotta tiles. 

Fast forward to when British colonization is at its peak...

At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Bruce, the British Earl of Elgin (hence the reason they are now called "Elgin" marbles and not Parthenon marbles) and ambassador to Constantinople, acquired most of the surviving sculpture from the Parthenon which was being used as a military base at the time.

In 1801, he shipped it back to decorate a lavish mansion for him and his wife, but his wife had left him by the time he got home and the marbles were part of a financial dispute. He ended up selling them at an incredibly low price.

The room that holds the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum. 

The remaining sculpture, that was not lost or too damaged, is now in the British Museum in a room created specifically to display the marbles that portray scenes from the life of the goddess Athena. 

A close up of one of the sculptures from the west pediment

The west pediment illustrated the contest that Athena won over Poseidon for rule over the Athenians, and the other pediment shows the birth of Athena, fully grown, from the brow of her father, Zeus. 

The remaining sculptures from the east pediment. The gap in the middle represents a missing sculpture.

The female form is expertly rendered in the marble under the folds of fabric. It's hard to believe that it is cold marble and not actual clothing that covers the headless figures. 

Like many countries around the world that were the subjects of British colonialism and lost many of their historic objects to Western museums, the Greek government continues to try (so far unsuccessfully) to have the marbles returned.

You can visit the Elgin Marbles in person for FREE at the British Museum in London

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10 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit The Tate Modern In London

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Bust of A Woman, 1944     Pablo Picasso

Located on the south bank of The River Thames in London, the Tate Modern is the world's most popular contemporary art gallery (more than five million visitors stroll through its doors every year!), and one of the top sights in London.

Study for Homage to the Square, 1963-1964     Josef Albers

The building, that houses the more than 60,000 works on constant rotation, was once a power station that was transformed by award-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

It is now a contemporary, light-filled space that boasts incredible views of the river and St. Paul's Cathedral. (For some great photo ops — and great coffee — head to the coffee bar on the 4th floor). 

From Line, 1978      Lee Ufan

One of the best parts about visiting galleries and museums in the UK is that admission is FREE! Yup, you read that right. There are often special exhibits that require a fee, but you will see more than you can possibly absorb with all the free art on display, so don't fret about having to shell out extra cash if you don't want to! 

If you have visited my website before, you know how much I LOVE taking photos of art when I am in Europe, and as you can imagine, I have hundreds of photos from my most recent visit to the Tate. Here are some of my favourite shots.   

Otaiti, 1930 (detail)      Francis Picabia 

Large Split Relief No. 34/4/74, 1964-5      Sergio Camargo

Fascism–The Most Evil Enemy of Women. Everyone To The Struggle Against Fascism!, 1941      Nina Vatolina

Autumn, 1948      Henri Laurens

I aspire to ripeness of form. I should like to succeed in making it so full, so juicy that nothing could be added.
— Henri Laurens

Figure (Woman), 1956-7      Magda Cordell

Planning your trip:

The Tate Modern is located on the south side of the river at Bankside. The website has VERY detailed instructions on how to get to the gallery using various forms of transport. Admission is FREE, except for special exhibitions, and the gallery is open Sun to Thu from 10 am to 6 pm, and Fri and Sat from 10 am to 10 pm. 

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The Tate Modern in London