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Elgin Marbles

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166515.  Mon Apr 16, 2007 7:42 am Reply with quote

The Elgin marbles are controversial these days - but nothing like as controversial as they were in 1816, when parliament paid an incredible £35,000 for them.

Many people pointed out that this money could have gone on something useful, instead of a load of old foreign tat passing itself off as “art”.

In particular, there’s a Cruikshank cartoon satirising the purchase, entitled “THE ELGIN MARBLES! or John Bull buying Stones at the time his numerous family want bread!!”

The satire is effective, if not exactly subtle. John Bull and his family visit the museum, where Lord Castlereagh tells them the “stones” were a bargain, and they should “Never think of Bread when you can have Stones so wondrous Cheap!!” Bull is not persuaded: “My family can’t eat Stones!” Meanwhile, his hungry children cry “Don’t buy them Daddy! We don’t want Stones. Give us Bread! Give us Bread! Give us Bread!” They want bread, d’you see? And his wife sums the whole business up with the neatness of a modern-day newspaper editorial: “Let him take his Stones back again to the Turks we don’t want them in this country!!”

S: The Museum’ by Rupert Smith (BBC Books, 2007).

166516.  Mon Apr 16, 2007 7:44 am Reply with quote

This is the only copy I can find online; you can't really see the words.


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