London

In front of the so-called Sword of Tiberius, made of iron (now heavily corroded) with the sheath of tinned and gilded bronze. The length of the sword is approximately 58 cm long by 8 cm wide. The decoration on the scabbard illustrates the ceding of military victory to Augustus by Tiberius after a successful Alpine campaign. Augustus is semi-nude, and sits in the pose of Jupiter, flanked by the Roman gods of Victory and Mars Ultor ('the Avenger'), while Tiberius, in military dress, presents Augustus with a statuette of Victory.This prestigious weapon was likely to have been commissioned by a senior officer in the Roman army to celebrate a victory in the lengthy and bloody military campaigns in Germany. Victory in these campaigns was essential for the expansion and protection of the Roman Empire's border, and the symbolic act of presenting these victories to the emperor avoided the destructive rivalry between generals, which had previously brought down the Roman Republic. This object illustrates the ceding of military victory to Augustus by Tiberius after a successful Alpine campaign. Augustus is shown semi-nude, and sits in the pose of Jupiter, flanked by Victory and Mars Ultor ('the Avenger'), while Tiberius, in military dress, presents Augustus with a statuette of Victory. The shield on which the seated figure rests his left arm is inscribed in Latin, Felicitas Tiberi, while the shield held by Victory nears the legend, Vic[toria] Aug[usti]. The iron sword and its decorated bronze scabbard was almost certainly commissioned for a senior officer to commemorate a victory in the lengthy and bloody military campaigns in Germany. Victory in these campaigns was essential for the extension and protection of Rome's empire, and the symbolic act of presenting it to the emperor avoided the destructive competition between generals, which had brought down the Roman Republic.

Trinity Place, immediately by the main entrance to the Tower Hill Circle and District line underground station dating from AD 200
 Hintze Hall in 1882







Drake Winston between a pair of winged bulls from Khorsabad at the entrance of the Assyrian gallery (pictured). The pair once guarded the entrance to the royal palace of Kind Ashurnasirpal II (883 to 859BC) in Nimrud, Northern Iraq. The Assyrians believed that the two bulls would keep evil from entering the monarch's home, according to the British Museum 

Beside the bust of Pericles and nearly a quarter century later with Drake Winston, located in a different area. 


 
British Museum





The architect’s scheme for the Duveen Gallery. Predictably enough, Duveen called the tune with the choice of architect (an American, J. Russell Pope). The plans went through various stages before the scheme shown here was approved. The museum authorities were worried that the sculpture appeared too remote from the visitor and that it was dominated by the gallery’s architecture.  But this didactic imperative never entirely won out. It was always held in check by the competing pressure to display the marbles as ‘great art’. So, for example, no sooner had the helpful model of the reconstructed Parthenon been introduced into the gallery than it was hastily removed to the basement. It simply did not come up to the required aesthetic standard; or, as the keeper of the day put it, ‘the coarseness of its execution and the restored portions [are] quite unworthy of the original remains’. And in the 1850s there was a serious proposal that the Parthenon sculptures (and other major sculpture in the British Museum) should be transferred to a new National Gallery, to be displayed side by side with masterpieces of painting. One of those who were called in to advise and strongly opposed any such mixture of media was the elderly Leo von Klenze, gallery designer for Ludwig of Bavaria and renowned architect, whom we last met as mastermind of the Acropolis pageant in 1834. 

The proposal failed. But some 70 years later, in 1928, an official report on the display of the Parthenon sculpture was happy to start from the assumption that the marbles were ‘primarily works of art’, and that ‘their present educational use’ is ‘by comparison, accidental and trivial’. These were the carefully chosen words of a highbrow committee (consisting of three heavyweight classical archaeologists) who went on to recommend a crucial change in the layout of the material in the museum. No longer were the sculptures to be supplemented with plaster casts. ‘The juxtaposition’, they wrote, ‘of marble and plaster is bound to be inharmonious’; the originals, fragmentary as they were, ought to be viewed and admired without any such distraction. The recently retired Keeper of Antiquities instantly saw the point. It was a victory for the transcendent quality of original masterpieces over completeness, context and history; it was a victory for the Parthenon as sculpture over the Parthenon as building. It implied, he observed (not entirely accurately, given the century of fierce debates), ‘a reversal of the policy that has been pursued for about a hundred years’. 

The current display in the Duveen Gallery represents a predictably awkward compromise between these two different imperatives. The sheer vastness of the gallery space signals the cultural and artistic importance of the works of art housed within it; no visitor could fail to see that they were supposed to admire. Context, history and casts (now including a hands-on display for the blind) are part of the show, but firmly relegated to two side-rooms next to the main entrance; they are not to encroach on the original marbles. The layout of the gallery does indeed gesture towards the architectural coherence of the monument itself: the pediments stand at each end of the room; the frieze runs around the central space (albeit turned ‘inside out’, to face inwards rather than outwards, as it did in its original position). But the real trick of the arrangement is to present the Elgin Marbles as if they were a complete set. Casual observers would never guess that a substantial section of the frieze still remained in Athens. And, if the architect’s original plans had been followed, they would hardly have noticed that much of the east pediment was missing either. It was only the purists among the museum staff who insisted on leaving a tell-tale gap on the plinths to mark where the key central figures had been lost. Overall the effect (and the intention) of the gallery design is to efface what remains in Athens. If the earlier regimes of display repeatedly and explicitly referred the viewer to the monument in Greece and its surviving sculpture, the Duveen effect is to squeeze that memory out. The Elgin Marbles are here meant to stand for the Parthenon itself.
Mary Beard, The Parthenon