The Parthenon Sculptures

The Acropolis Museum contains magnificent treasures which have survived to modern times as a testament to the respect of the Athenians and their love of beauty. Despite the fact that Lord Elgin took the lion’s share of the Parthenon‘s decoration, he also left fragments such as torsos from the pediment and sections of the frieze and the metopes. Thus, the Acropolis Museum, has the most comprehensive collection of Parthenon sculptures after the British Museum.

To begin with, almost all of the western side of the frieze which depicts the beginning of the Panathenaean procession is still to be found on the Parthenon. Two thirds of the friezes of the other sides are in the British Museum, while the remaining third, mainly from the northern side, is housed in the Acropolis Museum.

Block number 859 (the 17th block from the northern frieze) is one of the most beautiful. It depicts a hoplite apobates (an event in which the hoplite, or athlete, wearing his helmet and carrying a shield had to leap on and off his chariot as it was moving). The movement of his body is intense and the rendering of his torso is superb.

Block 865 has six old, but well-preserved thalophoroi (men bearing olive branches) walking slowly in the procession.

Block 864 (the sixth block of the north frieze) depicts three youths holding hydrias, while a fourth one leans down to pick his up with both hands. This composition demonstrates the Classical ideal in all its majesty and is imbued with piety and splendour.

Block 857 (second block from the northern f frieze) has an exquisitely simple composition in which three youths dressed in himations lead two oxen to be sacrificed. Many have attributed this piece to Phidias.

Block 860 (fourth block from the northern frieze) depicts a tender scene
with youths leading rams to be sacrificed. The animals seem to communicate with the youths and enjoy the caressing touch of their hands.

The twenty-ninth block of the northern frieze (no. 863) is cunningly designed and is full of motion. Riders are galloping towards the left while a master of ceremonies spreads his arms to direct the traffic of the procession. With this motion, his himation slides off, leaving his upper torso bare.

One of the most beautiful blocks of the east frieze (block 856) is attributed to Phidias’ student, Alcmenes; it depicts the end of the Panathenaean procession and the gods waiting for it to arrive. From the left to the right are Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite with young Eros who is holding a parasol. The drapery of Artemis’ himation is rendered masterfully and her face is a model of Classical beauty.

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