The Elgin Affair: The Abduction of Antiquity's Greatest Treasures and the Passions it Aroused

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9781559704571: The Elgin Affair: The Abduction of Antiquity's Greatest Treasures and the Passions it Aroused

Behind the cold beauty of the famous Elgin Marbles is a steamy tale of intrigue, adultery, and ruin. Vrettos has re-created in colorful detail the full, scandalous story behind the abduction of one of the world's great treasures. Drawing on letters, diaries, official reports, memoranda, and divorce proceedings, Vrettos brings to life a fascinating slice of history. The author concludes with the latest battles between the Greek and English governments over the rightful ownership of these priceless pieces.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Less concerned with ethics than with narrative, novelist Vrettos (Lord Elgin's Lady, 1982, etc.) chronicles the odyssey of the so-called Elgin Marbles from Athens to London against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Vrettos undermines his story's colorful firsthand material, such as diplomatic correspondence and Lady Elgin's letters, by awkwardly adding some novelistic touches with dialogue and scene- setting--superfluous in any case, for the material is colorful enough. Having survived Roman and Gothic invasions of Greece, the works of the ancient sculptor Phidias had fared badly under the Byzantines, Venetians, and Turks before Elgin, a Scottish diplomat obsessed with classical art, absconded with them in 1802. Justifying his right to their removal as negotiated with the Ottoman Porte, Lord Elgin contemptuously observed that ``modern Greeks have looked upon the superb works of Pheidias with ingratitude and indifference. They do not deserve them!'' In many ways, Elgin had more difficulty returning to England than did his loot. Caught at the outbreak of war, he was held hostage in Paris and the Pyrenees, in part because Napoleon wanted the celebrated sculptures for the Louvre. Before Elgin could arrange his return, Byron, who was to die fighting for Greek independence, castigated him as ``the last, the worst, dull spoiler'' of the Parthenon. Elgin came back to England only to find Parliament unenthusiastic about purchasing the treasures for the British Museum. He had to marshall support from the English art community while fending off bankruptcy and divorcing his long-suffering wife for adultery. But while Vrettos has a remarkable story to tell, he does not entirely unearth its characters' odd lives and complex motives. (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Few arts controversies have inflamed passions as long as have Lord Elgin's removal of the sculptures and friezes from the Parthenon. The treatment of the Elgin Marbles evoked strong feelings by celebrities from Lord Byron to Melina Mercouri. In this work, Vrettos for the third time undertakes to tell how the ancient sculptures found their way from Athens to the British Museum. He first took up the story with a nonfiction account (A Shadow of Magnitude, LJ 10/15/74) and fictionalized it eight years later (Lord Elgin's Lady, LJ 5/1/82). His new work reads much like a novel, with detailed descriptions of protagonists' attire and weather conditions. In fact, it is a re-serving of his earlier nonfiction effort; it makes a fine, light introduction to the subject but must defer to William St. Clair's Lord Elgin and the Marbles (1967) as the definitive scholarly treatment. Recommended for general readers and public libraries.?Paul Burnam, Ohio Wesleyan Univ. Libs., Delaware
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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