An Italian museum has agreed to return a fragment of the Parthenon to Greece as part of a four-year loan agreement, fueling debate over the reunification of the Parthenon marbles held in the British Museum in London since the early 19th century. The marble fragment, which represents the foot of a goddess, comes from the collection of the Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, Sicily.
In return, the Acropolis Museum in Athens will lend the Palermo Museum a headless statue of the goddess Athena from the 5th century BC. AD and an amphora from the 8th century BC. The move “paves the way for the return to Greece of the other Parthenon friezes kept today in other European cities and especially in London at the British Museum,” Nikolaos Stampolidis, director of the museum, told Italian news agency from the Acropolis. Ansa.
The Parthenon fragment was purchased by the University of Palermo from the estate of Robert Fagan, the former British consul for Sicily, around 1816. Negotiations between Sicily and Athens began in November 2020, the Greek minister said. of Culture, Lina Mendoni; the loan contract can be extended once, says the Ansa report.
“Returning to the context of its origins a small, but significant fragment belonging to the Parthenon has a very strong symbolic value,” Sicilian cultural adviser Alberto Samonà told the British newspaper. the Guardian. “It is also a response to the international debate [about the Parthenon artefacts]. For us, it is a gesture of friendship; Greece and Sicily are two regions of the Mediterranean which share a common history. Samonà added that the fragmented loan transfer could become permanent; he had not responded to a request for further comment at the time of writing.
In recent months, the debate around the British Museum restoring the Parthenon marbles has intensified. In November last year, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis raised the issue during a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson then added that the decision to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece was in the hands of the trustees of the British Museum. The problem was further fueled when former UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said in a podcast interview that he believed the marbles should be returned and by revelations that Johnson wrote an article in 1986, during his stay at Oxford University as a classics student, also in favor of their return.
The Parthenon sculptures have been kept in the British Museum since 1817 after being removed from the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens by the Scottish nobleman Lord Elgin, then Ambassador to the Ottoman court. In an online statement, British Museum trustees said Elgin acted with full knowledge and permission from then-judicial authorities in Athens and London.