Greece // Athens and around //

The Acropolis Museum

The new Acropolis Museum is a magnificent building, filled with beautiful objects, with a wonderful sense of space and light and a glass top storey with a direct view up to the Parthenon itself.

The remains of ancient Athens uncovered during building work can be seen even before you enter, protected under glass flooring that continues past through the ground floor. The displays proper start with a ramp described as the Slopes of the Acropolis, as that is where most of the pottery and other objects displayed here were found. At the top of the ramp are sculptures from the pediment of an early temple that stood on the site of the Parthenon, the Hekatompedon. Their surviving paintwork gives a good indication of the vivid colours originally used in temple decoration.

Statues dominate the first floor: the Moschophoros, a painted marble statue of a young man carrying a sacrificial calf, dated 570 BC, is one of the earliest examples of Greek art in marble. There’s also an extensive collection of Korai, or statues of maidens. The progression in style, from the simply contoured Doric clothing to the more elegant and voluminous Ionic designs, is fascinating; the figures’ smiles also change subtly, becoming increasingly loose and natural.

On the top floor, a fifteen-minute video (alternately in English and Greek) offers a superb introduction to the Parthenon sculptures. The metopes and the frieze are set out around the outside of the hall, arranged as they would have been on the Parthenon itself; the pediments are displayed separately at each end of the gallery. Only a relatively small number are original (see The Elgin Marbles); the rest are represented by plaster copies which seem deliberately crude, to make a point (there are better copies in Akropoli metro station, for example).

On the way back down through the museum are statues from the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, including the original Caryatids. The sculptures from the parapet of the former, all depicting Athena Nike in various guises, include a particularly graceful and fluid sculpture known as Iy Sandalizoméni, which depicts her adjusting her sandal. Don’t forget to check out the café too.

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