Lost faces of Parthenon Marbles in Athens REVEALED thanks to plaster casts taken in 1812


Faces and other features now lost from Athens’ Parthenon Marbles have been revealed in plaster casts taken of the sculptures back in the year 1802.

The casts were commissioned by the British aristocrat Thomas Elgin, who also made the controversial decision to transport many of the sculptures to London in 1812.

Expert analysis has revealed not only the extent to which the real marbles have deteriorated, but also that a spike of 19th century vandalism damaged them.

Arguably the most recognisable of ancient Greek art, the marbles’ original location has allowed their dating to 447–438 BC and connection to the sculptor Phidias.

Scroll down for video

Faces and other features now lost from Athens' Parthenon Marbles have been revealed in plaster casts taken of the sculptures back in the year 1802. Pictured, a figure on the West Frieze. The black head is present in the Elgin casts, but has since been lost from the marbles

Faces and other features now lost from Athens’ Parthenon Marbles have been revealed in plaster casts taken of the sculptures back in the year 1802. Pictured, a figure on the West Frieze. The black head is present in the Elgin casts, but has since been lost from the marbles

Arguably the most recognisable of ancient Greek art, the marbles' original location on the Parthenon has allowed their dating to 447–438 BC and connection to the sculptor Phidias

Arguably the most recognisable of ancient Greek art, the marbles’ original location on the Parthenon has allowed their dating to 447–438 BC and connection to the sculptor Phidias

Classicist Emma Payne of at Kings College London compared Elgin’s 19th century casts with similar ones made by in 1872 by Charles Merlin, the then British Consul at Athens, as well as to the marble friezes from the Acropolis themselves.

The Merlin casts were commissioned by the British Museum after fear that the intensive use of the Elgin casts to make further reproductions had worn the casts from 1802 out. 

With the real marbles having deteriorated since the casts were taken, Elgin’s casts could still potentially represent the best-preserved three-dimensional record of the friezes — assuming they are good copies of the original.

READ  Montana Tech students have pumpkin exploding down to a science - KRTV Great Falls News

It was this that Dr Payne had set out to determine. 

‘Elgin’s casts could be important records of the state of the sculptures in the very early 19th century before modern pollution hastened their deterioration,’ she said. 

To investigate, she used a special three-dimensional scanner to capture both the original marbles and the 19th century casts — overlaying the resulting images to highlight any differences between the three.

‘I found that, in general, the 19th century casts reproduce the marble sculptures more accurately than expected,’ said Dr Payne, noting that the casts — and those like them — should therefore still be considered a useful source of data. 

‘They definitely preserve some features lost from the originals — the 3D imaging helps us to identify these features.’

In fact, most of the casts were found to deviate from the original sculptures by no more than 1.5 millimetres.

Among the lost features were the faces of some of the marble figures — with Dr Payne’s analysis revealing tool marks on some of the remaining marbles that suggests vandalism was to account for the damage.

The fact that the Merlin casts are more similar to the real marbles than the Elgin casts suggests that most of this vandalism occurred during the 19th century.

The reconstructed areas, she noted, appear to sport a different surface texture to the original marble from which the casts were made. Pictured, the damaged figure in the North Frieze

The reconstructed areas, she noted, appear to sport a different surface texture to the original marble from which the casts were made. Pictured, the damaged figure in the North Frieze

‘However, archaeologists have also known for some time that the people making the casts would sometimes reconstruct damaged areas and I found more evidence of this practice than anticipated,’ Dr Payne noted.

The reconstructed areas, she noted, appear to sport a different surface texture to the original marble from which the casts were made. 

‘It seems that features like the broken tips of noses were quite commonly ‘corrected’ in the casts of the early 19th century, although this practice became much rarer later in the century.’ 

Among the lost features were the faces of some of the marble figures — with Dr Payne's analysis revealing tool marks on some of the remaining marbles (left, and close-up on the 3D model, right) that suggests vandalism was to account for the damage

Among the lost features were the faces of some of the marble figures — with Dr Payne’s analysis revealing tool marks on some of the remaining marbles (left, and close-up on the 3D model, right) that suggests vandalism was to account for the damage

Lord Elgin controversially arranged for the removal of many of the marbles' panels to his London home, ostensibly to protect them from neglect and damage. Pictured, an 1819 painting depicts — albeit in an idealised fashion — the temporary Elgin room set up in the British Museum to display the marbles that Elgin controversially took from Athens

Lord Elgin controversially arranged for the removal of many of the marbles’ panels to his London home, ostensibly to protect them from neglect and damage. Pictured, an 1819 painting depicts — albeit in an idealised fashion — the temporary Elgin room set up in the British Museum to display the marbles that Elgin controversially took from Athens 

WHO WAS LORD ELGIN? 

Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin

Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin

Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, was born in Scotland in 1766.

At the age of 33, Elgin was appointed as the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire — after which he began to record the ancient Greek sculptures of Athens.

READ  Coronavirus live updates: death toll jumps to 170 amid evacuation delays for foreign nationals

In 1802, he took moulds of the Parthenon’s West Frieze, from which casts of the sculptures were made.

Later, however, he controversially arranged for the removal of many of the panels to the UK, ostensibly to protect them from damage.

The Earl intended to decorate his private home in Scotland with the marbles, but ultimately sold them to cover a costly divorce settlement. 

‘This work helps us to understand the important role that such casts can play as 3D time capsules,’ Dr Payne concluded.

‘But we need to study them very closely to understand exactly what it is that they preserve.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Antiquity

Dr Payne used a special three-dimensional scanner to capture both the original marbles (bottom) and the 19th century Merlin (middle) and Elgin (top) casts — overlaying the resulting images to highlight any differences between the three. In the picture, the Elgin casts can be seen to capture the face of this figure from the West Frieze, which was later lost

Dr Payne used a special three-dimensional scanner to capture both the original marbles (bottom) and the 19th century Merlin (middle) and Elgin (top) casts — overlaying the resulting images to highlight any differences between the three. In the picture, the Elgin casts can be seen to capture the face of this figure from the West Frieze, which was later lost 

Built in the 5 century B.C., Parthenon was a symbol of the power, wealth and elevated culture of Athens. The statues with the lost faces reside in this ancient city

Built in the 5 century B.C., Parthenon was a symbol of the power, wealth and elevated culture of Athens. The statues with the lost faces reside in this ancient city



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here