The decision of the British Museum to send a Parthenon sculpture on a loan to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to celebrate its 250th anniversary, has sparked an angry reaction in Greece.
“The decision of the British Museum to lend one of the Parthenon sculptures to an exhibition in St. Petersburg is an affront to the Greek people,” Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stated.
This is the first time one of the Parthenon marble statues has been removed from the British Museum since 1803 when they were taken from Greece by the Earl of Elgin.
The statue in question is a sculpture of the Greek river god Ilissos, a headless male figure. “A supreme example of an original Greek work,” the British Museum said in a press release announcing the loan of the Parthenon sculpture to Russia’s State Hermitage Museum.
The statue will be on display in the museum until 18 January 2015.
According to the Greek PM, the British “dogma” according to which the Parthenon Marbles could not be moved was now invalid, in the same way the British side’s previous argument for the absence of an acceptable venue to host the marbles was shot down with the opening of the Acropolis Museum.
Mr. Samaras added that the Parthenon and its sculptures were “looted” and that their value was “priceless”.
According to reports, the British Museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, told BBC radio that he had hoped the Greek government would be “excited” that the sculpture would be displayed to a new audience.
“People who will never be able to visit Athens or London, here in Russia will understand something of these great achievements of Greek culture,” Mr. MacGregor was reported saying.
The marble statues that once decorated the Acropolis in Athens have been the subject of dispute since they were taken from the Greek capital by the Earl of Elgin in 1803 and later housed in London’s British Museum.