Leading Article: Losing our marbles
Tuesday 30 November 1999
Listen to the 19th-century tones of triumphalism. "Since the dominion of men was asserted over the ocean, three thrones, of mark beyond all others, have been set upon its sands: the thrones of Tyre, Venice and England". So wrote the art critic John Ruskin, surveying the stones of Venice, so many of which were looted from the Byzantine predecessors of the Ottomans.
But the Venetians, unlike the British, found glorious ways of displaying their loot. The British Museum's cold Duveen galleries, with their sepulchral, scraped-white marbles, are a temple to desolation. Put those stones back on the Parthenon, paint them in gaudy colours, let them enjoy the light and warmth of the Mediterranean sun. We still have Stonehenge, after all, which looks just right in the wintry rains of November.
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