This object is the 28th Metope from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It was originally located on the south side of the Parthenon as one of a series of Metopes depicting an epic battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. The metopes date back from about 447-438 BCE. It is currently located in the British Museum. It is 1.2 Meters tall and 1.25 Meters wide.
The metopes were carved from Pentelic Marble, found in Greece. This is a rare and expensive marble that most of the Parthenon was constructed from. This marble comes from the Penteliko Mountain and is classified as "flawless" with white coloring. The metopes were carved with a hammer and chisel. To make the rough surface smooth, sculptor's used an emory stone. This process was not an original Classical Greek invention. The general design of the metopes has been attributed to Phiedias, although it is known that much of the work was contracted out to other sculptors in Athens. This accounts for the variation that is seen between the different myths depicted on the metopes and the variations between the style seen on the different sides of the Parthenon. The sculptures were carved on the ground and then lifted into their place in the exterior Doric Frieze [See Perseus Database]
The original purpose of the metopes was to screen the gaps between the columns. Without the metopes there would have been visible gaps between the triglyphs. All 92 of the metopes on the Parthenon were carved in the style of high relief, depicting scenes from Greek mythology. Most commonly the metopes were carved from a specific sized slab of marble to fit in between two triglyphs. The backdrops of the sculptures were painted with bright colors of blue and red. The deep blue coloring came from copper calcium silicate which was imported from Egypt. The red coloring came from red ochre or Iron Oxide, which was abundant in Greece [Greek Architecture, pp.70-74]
The British Museum is home to 15 of the metopes from the south side of the Parthenon. This has been a highly contested subject throughout the years. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin was responsible for removing objects from the Parthenon (the 15 metopes included), and having them shipped to England where they would remain part of a private collection for 10 years. Bruce claimed to have removed the artifacts out of concern for their preservation. The movement of the "Elgin Marbles" created an immediate controversy that is still going on. There have been frequent attempts made by the Greek government to acquire the marbles and return them to the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece [See Encyclopedia Brittanica, Elgin Marbles]
Local Historical ContextEdit
The metopes were constructed during the Golden Age of Athens. Athens during this time was home to some of the greatest playwrights, philosophers, poets and leaders of all time. The metopes were built during a time of peace in Athens, after the war with Persia was over. It was a time of peace and abundance for the city-state. Athens was a Democracy, and free males could vote to elect their leaders. Women and slaves were not considered citizens and therefore could not vote. Most men were tradesmen who spent the day in the market selling textiles, wine, pottery, produce and more while the women stayed home and kept up with the household duties during the day. Slaves were an integral part of Classic Greek culture and worked from the home cooking, cleaning, and looking after small children [See The Golden Age of Athens]
The metopes, and the Parthenon in general were created as a gift to the goddess Athena, the namesake of Athens [The Golden Age of Athens] The specific set of metopes on the south side of the Parthenon represented the famous Greek myth of the Centauromachy, a common theme of Athenian Art. This was an epic battle between the Lapiths (Humans) and the Centaurs. There are different variations of the myth but they all revolve around the Centaurs attempting to capture and take away Hippodamia among other Lapith women on the day that she was to be married to the king of the Lapith's. The Lapith's defeated the Centaurs. This is said to exemplify the clash between the educated and advanced and the crude and savage people in Classic Greek Culture [Perseus Database]
World Historical SignificanceEdit
The metopes from the south side of the Parthenon are the best known and most widely recognized. This is because there is a detailed set of drawings accurately depicting them; these are credited to the artist J. Carrey. They are also best known because the Christians did not deface any of the metopes on the south side. The metopes are significant because they are used to easily identify the Doric Order style, one of three forms of Ancient Greek architecture. The other two styles, Ionic and Corinthian do not appear to have an object equivalent to the metope [See Metopes and Architecture: The Hephaisteion and the Parthenon, pg. 419] In the greater scheme of world history the metopes are representative of the city of Athens as a center of arts, science and literature [See The Golden Age of Athens]
As mentioned in the technical evaluation section, some of the metopes, including metope 28 did circulate through a long distance trade network from Athens, Greece (while under Ottoman rule) to England. The metopes and other marbles from the Parthenon that were brought over to England remained in the private collection of Thomas Bruce for 10 years before they were bought by the English Crown for 35,000 pounds [See Encyclopedia Brittanica, Elgin Marbles]
"Elgin Marbles." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/184554/Elgin-Marbles>.
Walter, Lawrence Arnold. Greek Architecture. Ed. R.A. Tomlinson. 5th ed. Penguin Books, 1957. Print. Marina Yeroulanou.
Metopes and Architecture: The Hephaisteion and the ParthenonThe Annual of the British School at AthensVol. 93, (1998), pp. 401-425 Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/stable/30103799
Adare, Sierra. "The Golden Age of Athens." Greece: The Land (1999): 12-13. History Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.