Were the Greek Artefacts, purchased from Elgin, ‘Marbles’ or ‘Stones’? by Natalia de Blasio
Were the Greek Artefacts, purchased from Elgin, ‘Marbles’ or ‘Stones’? An investigation of the perceived aesthetic value of the Elgin Marbles through analysis of John Keats’s sonnet ‘To Haydon’ and George Cruikshank’s caricature The Elgin Marbles! or John Bull buying stones at the time his numerous family want bread.
The controversy of the purchase of the Elgin Marbles in 1816 created many ripples in the artistic and political strata of society. In particular, the opinions on the artistic value of these artefacts ranged from fascination and hence their perception as priceless through to complete disregard, and subsequently a waste of money. References and views on this debate were expressed in many works of the day, including the statues being praised in poetry and mocked in satirical prints. This article will use two examples of the day, John Keats’s sonnet ‘To Haydon’ and George Cruikshank’s caricature ‘The Elgin Marbles!’ to investigate whether at the time of their acquisition these Greek statues were recognized to be an aesthetic treasure.