UK government rules out law change for return of Parthenon marbles to


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The Parthenon marbles housed in the British Museum continue to occupy the foreground of an ongoing debate about art repatriation. After reports of a series of “secret” meetings regarding the sculptures, the U.K. government confirmed there would be no law change to facilitate their return to Greece. 

Made between 447 and 432 B.C. under the supervision of the sculptor Phidias and his assistants, the marbles in the British Museum’s collection are displayed in the special-made Duveen Gallery, having once adorned the Parthenon atop Athens’ Acropolis. They consist of 15 metopes (sculpted relief panels), 17 pedimental figures and 247 feet of the original frieze. The sculptures depict impressive scenes of battle and festival procession, as well as gods reclining. 

Altogether, the British Museum’s collection makes up half of the Parthenon’s surviving sculptures.

Leto, Artemis and Aphrodite from the Parthenon’s east pediment.
(VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

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On Saturday, Greek newspaper Ta Nea revealed that since November 2021, the chair of the British Museum, George Osborne, has held a series of “secret” discussions on the return of the marbles with senior Greek government officials, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The latest meeting between Mitsotakis and Osborne was last week and insiders claim negotiations are at an “advanced stage.”

Greece has long maintained that the marbles were stolen and have campaigned for their repatriation. On the other hand, the British Museum, alongside the U.K. government, has defended its right to possess and display them.

At issue are the actions of Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 19th century. Having been granted a permit, Elgin removed the sculptures and later sold them to the British government in 1816. 

Elgin’s actions were investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee…


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