Return to British Museum and visit to New Tate Gallery, London: Journey with the History Guru to...

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 in category


A one hour train trip from Oxford armed with a day pass enabled us to drop off our luggage at Victoria Station and have free use of the London Underground to get to the British Museum and to visit the New Tate Gallery.

One of the most controversial exhibits at the BM is the Parthenon’s marble sculpture nicknamed, ‘Lord Elgin’s Marbles’. The Greek government built a museum to house this sculpture and began an unsuccessful political campaign to pressure the British government and the BA to return these treasures to Greece to coincide with the Athens Olympics. See the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Lord Elgin was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul during 1801-1805. Eleven years later Lord Elgin presented his marvels to the British government and the British Museum. Elgin’s collection of sculptures included:

· Somewhat less than half of the Parthenon’s frieze (75 metres)

· 17 figures from the famous pediments of the Parthenon

· 15 of the 92 metopes or sculptured panels above the columns

· Artefacts from other buildings on the Acropolis: the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike


The North Frieze was arranged with 60 riders in 10 ranks or tribes

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A magnificent layout showing west pediment end on the left; east pediment end on the right

For Professor Mary Beard’s account of the debate over custodianship of ‘Lord Elgin’s Marbles’ see:

Her blog is interesting too! A Don's Life

The Parthenon was built to honour of the Greek victory over the Persian invading army in 479 B.C. (Battle of Plataea). Construction of this temple to Athena ended in 438-437 B.C. taking 8-9 years to build.

here is a virtual tour of the acropolis.

For a YouTube presentation on the visual tricks of the Parthenon see:

For a good Smithsonian article on ‘Unlocking the Mysteries of the Parthenon’:


The Nereid Monument from Xanthos, Turkey. The daughters of the sea god, Nereus, grace this Lykian tomb (390-380 B.C.)


The Nereids – their exact placement on the tomb monument is unknown

Tate Modern is dedicated to modern art since A.D.1900. A former power station (great to see conversions that respect industrial heritage!), it was designed for two million visitors but in its first year of opening in A.D. 2000 five million people flocked to see its collection. A new extension will help to alleviate the overcrowding.

See: The Tate Modern


Pablo Picasso (Spanish) who believed an artist should leave an impact ‘like razor blades’. TRUE!


Alexander Calder (American) ’Mobile’ 1932


Fernand Leger (French) ‘The Acrobat and his Partner’ 1948

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