1943 Letter Reveals British Museum Trustee Wanted to Return Parthenon Marbles to Greece



Greece’s Ta Nea newspaper published on Friday an explosive two-page letter written by British art historian Kenneth Clark dating back to 1943. The heretofore unknown letter portrays the famous art historian’s strong desire to return the Parthenon Marbles to the city of their origin.

Clark, one of the most respected art historians in the world, was a former trustee of the British Museum, where the famous sculptures, chipped off in the early 1800s from the Parthenon, are now exhibited.

Along with his position as a British Museum trustee, Clark was also the director of London’s National Gallery as well, and he sent the letter to Thomas Bodkin, who was the director of Dublin’s National Gallery in 1943.

In the missive, Clark argued in favor of Britain returning the Parthenon sculptures, as he says, ”out of a sense of duty toward Greece.”

The general atmosphere at the time in Britain was very favorable toward Greece, as the two nations were battling the monster of Nazism hand-in-hand.

Clark also argued that Britain should build a new museum in Athens’ ancient citadel, to which the Parthenon sculptures would be returned and displayed as a gesture of friendship between the two countries.

Of course, as we all know, this has not happened yet — seventy-six years after the letter was written by the foremost art historian in the world.

Greece now has one of the most beautiful and critically-acclaimed museums on the globe, the New Acropolis Museum, which unfortunately displays replicas instead of the original priceless marbles, among the many other artifacts it exhibits.