Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Northumberland restoration uncovers ancient Greek mystery

A replica of a frieze which once decorated the Parthenon in Athens has been found hidden behind a wall in a Northumberland pub. A decorator carrying out renovations in the Three Horse Shoes in East Hartford discovered the bronze coloured panel behind a piece of hardwood above the mantelpiece in the early 1990’s.The pub’s owner agreed that John Stephenson could keep the find and he recently decided to try to find out more about it. Mr Stephenson contacted Rob Collins, a Finds Liaison Officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme based at Newcastle University, who showed the artefact to staff at the University’s museum. They immediately recognised the panel as a replica of the Parthenon frieze. Mr Collins’ research revealed that, early in the 19th century, a sculptor named John Henning and his son, also named John were commissioned to carve a full scale replica of the Parthenon frieze to decorate the exterior of the Athenaeum Club in London. Henning, who was a leading sculptor of the day, later carved a set of miniatures of sections of the frieze. These were put together in boxed sets and sold to collectors. So popular were Henning’s slate miniatures that others began to copy them by making a mould of the slate and casting copies - effectively creating replicas of the replicas.“Henning eventually became very irritated by the number of copies of his work that were being sold, even in some cases alongside his original slate sculptures’, said Mr Collins. “So in fact, while not especially rare, this find may be a very interesting relic of the Victorian fascination with antiquity, or indeed it may be a much later copy. What is even more interesting, however, is how it came to be set into the wall of a pub in the North East of England”.Mr Stephenson has donated his find to Newcastle University’s Shefton Museum of Greek and Etruscan Art and Archaeology.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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