The jewel in the crown of the British Museum, in my opinion, were the Grecian galleries. I mean, what can you say when you see a whole temple before you?
How all of these pieces got here is rather controversial. In the early 19th Century, a certain Lord Elgin (then British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire) obtained permission from the Ottomans to remove sculptures from the Parthenon and other buildings. The British government later purchased his ‘loot’ and it has been on display at the British Museum ever since.
One can’t deny that they are exquisite up close; so beautifully formed, and surprisingly well-preserved.
The debate on whether Britain should return them has raged ever since. The British have currently refused to give them back, but the British weren’t the only ones who removed pieces from Greece – some other startling pieces of Ancient Greece are also in Paris, Berlin and Munich.
Having now seen the rest of the existing Parthenon sculptures in Athens itself (which I will go through when I post about Greece), it was probably good that they went to a museum early on and not been exposed to 20th Century Athens pollution. But having seen what a good job the Greeks have done with the new Acropolis museum, I see no reason why the British (and others who have taken from the Parthenon) can’t return them now. What do you think?