The Acquisition

In 1801 Lord Elgin began the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures. The main points of the acquisition of the Parthenon sculptures, as documented in historical research are as follows:

•    Lord Elgin acquired the sculptures in an ambiguous manner with the intention to decorate his mansion. No one has ever seen the original document (firman) issued by the Ottoman Empire, authorizing Lord Elgin to remove and transport the sculptures. Even while arranging their sale to the British government, Lord Elgin submitted a vague Italian translation of the document, the authenticity of which and exact meaning are still debated about today.

•    Interpreting the content of the firman to his advantage and by bribing the local Ottoman representatives, Lord Elgin managed to violently remove some of the sculptures with the use of saws, hammers and crowbars.

•    A brig called The Mentor sank outside of Kythera, while transporting some of the sculptures. This resulted in the cargo remaining under water for a period of almost two years.

•    When the sculptures arrived in Britain, they were kept in a shed attached to Lord Elgin’s house (who had spent a large part of his fortune by this point) for a period of almost 8 years, subjected to the damp environment and without any maintenance.

•    During this time Lord Elgin made several casts of the sculptures, chipping a little off their surface each time.

•    When Lord Elgin was forced to sell his house for financial reasons, the sculptures suffered further damage as they were transported and stored in a coal shed. Elgin himself, in an effort to convince the British government to purchase the sculptures, mentioned this fact.

•    Following their sale to the British government and their installation in the gallery sponsored by Lord Duveen, the sculptures were subjected to a cleaning process using copper tools and corrosive materials so as to meet the public’s expectations of what Greek marble should look like.

Yet today there is a sign on display in the British Museum containing the following sentence:

…  his actions spared them further damage by vandalism, weathering and pollution.

The sign hanging in the British Museum today

The sign hanging in the British Museum today


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2 Comments on “The Acquisition
  1. Let people all over the world know how Lord Elgin abused and vandalised these sculptures. Take out a full page ad, informing people about his abuse and the facts that have been hidden by the Brits, let alone the continual criticism the greeks have carried regarding their care.

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