23 Jun Iconic Athens statues given revitalising overhaul

Any bronze statue company, such as ourselves here at Big Statues, will tell you that it takes a pretty special statue to last for 2,500 years. After all, just consider all of the hazards that any one statute potentially faces during all of that time.

However, not only have four particularly important marble maidens from Ancient Greece survived to the present day, but they are looking as well as they have ever done, thanks to a meticulous cleaning job.

The statues had long been coated in black grime, but since 2011, that has gradually been removed by determined conservators making use of a specially designed laser. Now, all four statues are ready to dazzle visitors to the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which marked its fifth anniversary on Friday, June 20.

The draped figures were sculpted in the late fifth century B.C. as columns for the Erechtheion, a temple on the 512 feet (156 meters) high sacred rocky hill known as the Acropolis, which towers over modern Athens. Known as the Caryatids, the maidens are more than seven and a half feet tall (2.3 metres), and six of them originally held the Erechtheion’s south porch’s roof on their heads.

Of the two not a part of the present project, one can now be found in the British Museum in London, having been brought to the English capital in the early 19th century, while the other was cleaned seven years ago.

The figures left on the Acropolis were left worse for wear as a result of exposure to high levels of air pollution with the industrialization of Athens over the last century, suffering from a darker hue and the gradual dissolution of their features under continuous acid rain. Further damage was prevented by the removal of the statues to the old Acropolis Museum in 1979, the Erechtheion’s porch gaining cement replicas in their place.

Five conservators and one laser technician worked hard to gradually clean the statues in shifts, each one taking between six and eight months, one millimeter after another. It was extremely painstaking work, but the results have proved more than worthwhile, Acropolis Museum director Dimitris Pandermalis commenting that “This is the first time in a hundred years that you can see the marble without smoke and dirt and really appreciate the quality of the statues.”

There may be another project to come, using modern imaging techniques to reveal the colours that¬† were once brightly painted into the maidens’ clothing, only for all visible pigment traces to be visibly washed away by centuries of winter rain.

We’ll look forward to any future developments relating to these and other Ancient Greek and Acropolis statues, but in the meantime, as a modern bronze statue company, we can only salute the incredible work that has been done by the conservators and technicians on these remarkable sculptures.

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