London 2013: The British Museum (Part Four) — Photographing the Elgin Marbles

I brought three lenses with me to London along with my Canon 60D DSLR. The Canon 24-105mm zoom lens is the one that’s usually on my camera and the one that I most often use during my travels. The 50mm lens I actually never used on this trip. But I exchanged my wide-to-tele zoom for my wide-angle zoom, a Tokina 11-16mm, on two occasions, both of which involved museums: The Tate Modern and The British Museum.

The wide-angle lens allows me to catch a whole room if necessary or at least one long wall in a large room. It’s also the lens I used to shoot most of the churches we visited in Europe last year.

I also like to get people in my pictures and a wide angle lens allows me to not only capture a large work of art but also some people looking at that work of art. Sometimes these latter shots are more interesting than just documenting a pretty picture.

Here are some of the shots I took of the Elgin Marbles in Room 18 of the British Museum:


Schematic for Room 18A



We encountered strange blue lighting in Room 18a. The lighting organization won an award in 1995 for the work they did in this room. I don’t know why.


A reconstruction of the northwest corner of the Parthenon, showing a centaur metope above a column.



In 1802 Elgin was allowed to make molds of all of the frieze panels that would remain in Athens. These copies are in much better condition that the original panels that have deteriorated considerably due to exposure to the elements.


Entrance to the main display area (Room 18B)


We had no problem with the lighting in this room or in any other room in the museum.


Pediment sculptures are in the background. Metope panels are spaced along the side wall.


These sculpture form the left side of the East Pediment triangle. Dionysius is the only one with a head.


The right sculptures of the triangle plus two centaur panels.


There were many art students among the museum viewers.


The frieze panels depict a parade in honor of the goddess Athena. I don’t know why the museum staff decided to display these treasures on walls that are practically the same color.


Metopes displayed around a corner. In his London tour guide Rick Steves explains the Human – Centaur battle as a metaphor for “Greece’s own struggle to rise above nomadic barbarism to the pinnacle of early Western civilization.”


These torsos are at the other end of the room from the East Pediment sculptures.


These sculptures were once on the Parthenon’s west pediment.


A south metope. The note at the base reads “The human Lapith forces his centaur opponent down, gripping him by the throat. The line of the Lapith’s body crosses the centaur at a diagonal. This compositional device was popular in Greek art for depicting scenes of strife.”


The leftmost sculpture for the west pediment. The note at the base reads “A naked youth reclines in a pose well suited to the corner angle of the pediment. His languid form is thought to portray one of the rivers of Athens, perhaps the Ilissos. “

What we saw in the rest of the museum will be the subject of tomorrow’s posting.



About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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