Before the opening of George Clooney’s movie The Monuments Men, Boris Johnson remarked that George, who said the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece, was showing a rather sketchy knowledge of history. The Elgin Marbles are a cherished part of the childhood of our Mayor, who would regularly go to the British Museum to marvel at their glories.
Boris pointed out the irony of making a movie criticising the looting by Goering and the Nazis of European art treasures, while advocating the same action, and sarcastically quipped maybe George should get his own marbles restored.
First of all, Mr. Clooney, the Paris Louvre, the Vatican, Copenhagen, Vienna and Munich also have some parts of the Marbles, not just the British Museum.
Secondly, the removal of the Marbles by Lord Elgin in 1801-5, was with the full permission of the Ottoman authorities. It was entirely legal. a fact that seems to have escaped the Hollywood actor and his wife, who is assisting the Greek government is getting the Marbles returned to Greece. It’s not like Lord Elgin smuggled them out in pieces under his overcoat.
Amal Clooney, George’s new lawyer wife, is now assisting the Greek government in getting the Marbles back. This action by Amal looks like unwarranted interference, and will do nothing to endear George Clooney to the British public. Let’s hope hope this legal challenge fails! The movie The Monuments Men, touted as an Oscar contender, about the looting of European art treasures by the Nazis, was a monster flop at the box office.
In February this year, on the programme London Tonight, historian Bendor Grosvenor said he didn’t always agree with Boris Johnson, but he does on this occasion. How far back do you go? said Bendor. The Marbles have been in the British Museum for 200 years, entirely legally. Full details of the history of the Elgin Marbles are here.
Latest 15/10/14 Celebrity lawyer Amal Clooney is now suggesting that the British Museum “swaps“the Elgin Marbles for other artefacts. Her suggestion leads me to believe the Greeks have no case and legally the Marbles cannot be returned under duress to Greece.