Austrian Committee and the two Parthenon fragments from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

This is the moment we were all waiting here in Austria! The moment of the return of the two Parthenon Fragments from Vienna and the Kunsthistorisches Museum back to Greece and the Acropolis Museum.

I would like to start this article by congratulating the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria, Alexander Schallenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Nikos Dendias.

I would like also to congratulate the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Acropolis Museum, and all those that have been working in both countries for the reunification of these fragments.

Congratulations to the Embassy of Greece in Vienna for helping out and for their excellent job. Insbesondere möchten wir uns für die außergewöhnlich gute Zu- sammenarbeit mit Ihnen bedanken!

And I would like to give special recognition to a woman who I think is considered a great embassador, for all her achievements so far here in Vienna, Mrs Aikaterini Koika.

Two years ago, the negotiations started. Two years ago, COVID shut down all efforts. Today, Austria and Greece are writing a new chapter, a story of progress, a story of democracy that remains unbroken, a story of reunification.

We were often told that Austria and the Kunsthistorisches Museum would never agree, under no circumstances, to return the two Parthenon fragments.

But over these past two years, we proved the cynics and the naysayers wrong.

Austria and Greece came together, to pass a once-in-a-generation agreement, building bridges to connect European culture and its people.

The historic Austrian Parliament on the Ring, which took five years to renovate and modernize, now shines again in its new splendor.

So today we are delighted to hear the news concerning the talks between Austria and Greece, talks for our common culture, for our common European history, and for the Art we love. Afterall back in 1857, with an imperial decree, Emperor Franz Joseph, himself, gave the go ahead for the construction of the Austrian Parliament, a building designed in the Historistic style (Historismus Stil), by the architect Theophil von Hansen, who imitated the design of the Parthenon temple, in the belief that the form of government in classical Athens had given birth to the truest form of democracy.

North Frieze, Slab IX. Procession of elders, Thallophoroi. Parthenon Gallery, Acropolis Museum.

These two beautiful Parthenon fragments, these amazing artefacts, were purportedly removed from the Acropolis by a Venetian dignitary in the aftermath of the bombardment of the Parthenon by Morosini, in 1687, who carried home the fragments as war-souvenirs at that time.

The first fragment belongs to Slab IX of the North Frieze and depicts the heads of two male figures, who are portrayed as bearded men, with sort curly hair and pronounced cheekbones that reveal their mature age. Slab IX displays a procession of bearded elders shown standing, clad in himmatia, facing forward or in profile. The elderly men are identified with the “Thallophoroi”, who participated in the sacred procession holding olive branches.

The second fragment comes from the upper left part of Slab XXXV the North Frieze. This section of the frieze depicts horsemen riding in rows of seven, overlapping each other. Even though the relief is low the impression of depth is not diminished. The fragment depicts the head and torso of a horseman as also the front part of the head of the horse that lies next to the rider’s left shoulder. The horseman is portrayed as a young man with short undulating hair and solemn face. The horse lowers its head in a posture that further accentuates the intensity of the gallop. Holes which are preserved on the fragment, were intended for attaching reins!

Despite the good news, we should not forget: the unfinished and great task, remaining before us, to bring back all the Parthenon Sculptures. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. We must have faith. We must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. It is up to us to support this cause and make it work. Together, we cannot fail.

Mag. Alexandra Pistofidou

Präsidentin und Gründerin Österreichisches Kommitte für die Rückgabe der Parthenon Skulpturen

[1] Source, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, “ Fragments of the Parthenon Sculptures displayed in Museums Across Europe, (with the exception of the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum), by Elena Korka, General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage.

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