The notion of ‘Britishness’ and the Parthenon Sculptures

An etching from 1825 shows the British Museum hall where the Parthenon Sculptures were shown at the time. A few years earlier, in 1808, the shed that Lord Elgin had initially used to store the marbles hosted an A-list boxing match that was described as the 'perfect match between nature and art.'

It was no ordinary breakfast gathering. In June 1808, Sir Anthony Carlisle, a surgeon and leading member of London's elite, had prepared a surprise for his all-male, art-loving toffish guests, taking them to a room where boxing champion Bob Gregson stood posed like an exhibit. Ten days later, the same group was invited to a shed used by Lord Elgin and where again they could admire the pugilist's form, this time juxtaposed beside the Parthenon Sculptures. 

A few weeks earlier, that same shed was used to host a boxing match between top British pugilists set against the marble sculptures, an event that was described as the "perfect match between nature and art." 

These vignettes appear in the diary of Joseph Farington, a regular visitor to the makeshift exhibition space created by Lord Elgin, which he described as being too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. <...

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