Letter From Athens – Return Winged Victory

Much attention – all of it due – has been given to Greece’s hopeless quest over the years to have the British Museum return the Parthenon Marbles that were stolen by Lord Elgin nearly 200 years ago. He didn’t, as some daft Turkophiles proclaim, buy them from the Turks who didn’t own them, just as they didn’t own Greece. The British Museum claimed that Greece didn’t have a proper place to store and display the priceless treasures, but when the New Acropolis Museum opened four years ago to wide acclaim, and with a floor dedicated to showing off the Marbles, the tune changed. None of the Brit arguments have any merit, of course, because the only reason the Marbles are still in London instead of Athens, where they were created, is because it brings in money. Period. Full stop. The British don’t care about Greek culture, they care about the money Greek treasures brings them inasmuch as they have no real culture.

Much attention – all of it due – has been given to Greece’s hopeless quest over the years to have the British Museum return the Parthenon Marbles that were stolen by Lord Elgin nearly 200 years ago. He didn’t, as some daft Turkophiles proclaim, buy them from the Turks who didn’t own them, just as they didn’t own Greece.
The British Museum claimed that Greece didn’t have a proper place to store and display the priceless treasures, but when the New Acropolis Museum opened four years ago to wide acclaim, and with a floor dedicated to showing off the Marbles, the tune changed.
None of the Brit arguments have any merit, of course, because the only reason the Marbles are still in London instead of Athens, where they were created, is because it brings in money. Period. Full stop. The British don’t care about Greek culture, they care about the money Greek treasures brings them inasmuch as they have no real culture.
When was the last time someone said, “Hey, let’s go get some British food!” The British think Stonehenge is architecture instead of a grouping of prehistoric rocks. Nothing compares in this world to the Parthenon. The Great Wall of China? Hey, it’s a wall! Sure, a long one but my father, who was a builder, had Greek masons who could have built it faster and better.
The late, great Melina Mercouri rubbed the Brits faces in it good and got the thinking world, which excludes the United Kingdom, to call the stolen goods the Parthenon Marbles, not the Elgin Marbles, because they didn’t belong to him, just as they don’t belong to the British Museum.
There’s not a single argument in the world that stands up to the British not returning what belongs to Greece so you can count on the spin cycle being in perpetual public relations motion from London. We can only Chinese bandits someone steals Big Ben and puts it on display in China and rename it the Beijing Clock.
But there’s another antiquity outrage that has someone never caught the world’s attention. If the Parthenon Marbles represent, collectively, some of the greatest work of ancient Greek design, the statue the Winged Victory of Samothrace is perhaps the greatest single Hellenistic sculpture.
But it’s not on the island of Samothrace, but in the Louvre, where the French proudly show off their stolen and ill-gotten gains believing it belongs to them.
The statue, sometimes called Nike, was discovered in April 1863 by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, who stole it and sent it to Paris, making him the French Lord Elgin. And for 150 years the Greek statue has been the cornerstone display in the main hall of the French museum, the Daru staircase, that leads to the Mona Lisa. Get a look at Nike. It makes the Mona Lisa look like graffiti.
Now, Nike needs four million euros worth of restoration work, some three million of which has already been raised and the French are looking for a benefactor or contributions to help finish the work of preserving it.
It was removed from viewing on Sept. 3 and won’t return until the summer of 2014. The conservation project is expected to allow the improvement of the skeleton and the cleaning of the sculpture that was designed by different kinds of marble.
Officials said the 2nd-Century B.C. sculpture was set to be dismantled, hoisted onto rollers and wheeled into a closed cabin in another Louvre gallery for structural work and a meticulous cleaning to restore the original hues to its marble.
The 5.9-meter (about 18-foot) sculpture shows the headless, armless remains of the winged Greek goddess of victory, Nike, as she lands on a ship’s bow atop a flat base. The work’s flowing garments, energized pose with right leg extended and outstretched wings point to an expert rendering in the high-quality Paros marble, which has yellowed with time, Louvre officials said, according to the Associated Press.
“For specialists in Greek sculpture, it’s an essential work … It immediately draws attention,” Ludovic Laugier, a Louvre restoration official, told reporters. Talk about understatement.
In 1999, residents on Samothrace conducted a letter-writing campaign to get the treasure back but it was filed in the same place the British Museum puts similar entreaties about the Parthenon Marbles: the waste basket.
Later that year, the artist Max Mulhern delivered a new Nike sculpture to the island of as a gift to replace the missing original. It was made of aluminum, so even while the residents were happy with it the Greek Culture Ministry put it where it belonged: buried in a field by the sea.
In the early 1880’s, the French did restoration work on Nike and they used plaster. Yes, plaster, to do it on the cheap so you don’t want anyone French getting near the work now and Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Akis Gerondopoulos had a better idea: give it back.
“If the French and the Louvre have a problem, we are ready to preserve and accentuate the Victory of Samothrace, if they return it to us,” he said. If only they’d fall for it, but only the British are that gullible.
Here’s a better idea. Have the work done by my dad’s masons. They can back up a truck, put Nike on it, and restore it. To Greece.