Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday requested that French President Emmanuel Macron loan the Parthenon sculptures at the Louvre Museum to Greece for its bicentennial celebrations of the War of Independence, in 2021.
Mitsotakis made the formal request during his visit to Paris, where the two leaders discussed the issues of immigration in the EU, Turkey’s treatment of Cyprus’ EEZ, Greece’s post-bailout economy, and other issues.
The Greek Prime Minister added the issue of the celebrations for the declaration of the War of Independence in 1821, stressing the importance of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary, which are both symbolic and very real.
“In view of 2021 and the 200 years since the Revolution, we remember that France helped in the Revolution of 1821,” Mitsotakis stated, stressing the strong ties of friendship between the two countries.
From the Greek point of view there is already a proposal for an exhibition in Greece of the Parthenon sculptures which are part of the Louvre’s collection. In exchange, a number of bronze sculptures which have not yet traveled outside of Greece will be loaned to the Louvre.
The Parthenon sculptures at the Louvre
Two prime examples of classical Greek art from the Parthenon are currently exhibited at the great Paris museum.
First, there is the metope from the south facade, which portrays the Battle of the Lapiths with the Centaurs, in which the mythical king of Athens, Theseus, took part. The tenth metope belonging to the Louvre shows a Lapith poised to run, trying to avoid a Centaur. The Centaur has caught her and is trying to grab her with his left hand.
Then there is “The Plaque of the Ergastines,” the frieze which depicts the high points of the great Athenaian festival held every four years in Athens. This priceless sculpture shows six Ergastines, young women in charge of weaving the shawl to be offered to Athena, being greeted by two priests as they walk in procession towards the assembly of the gods.
The sculptures were originally taken from the Acropolis by the French ambassador to the Ottoman court in Constantinople, Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, who competed with Lord Elgin, his English counterpart, for the acquisition of the Parthenon Sculptures.
Although Elgin had the political advantage, given Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, Choiseul did manage to acquire two priceless metope sculptures from the Parthenon as well as a panel from its frieze.