Following his excellent and informative review of the exhibition Expanding Horizons: Giovanni Battista Lusieri and the Panoramic Landscape in your sister paper, Scotland on Sunday (1 July), it is regrettable that Tim Cornwell, on the following day, should take a swipe at this gifted artist, and his patron, the 7th Earl of Elgin (“Delicate draftsman but despoiler of art”, 2 July).
Cornwell finds it ironic that Lusieri, “a fine and delicate craftsman, carried off one of the most controversial hauls of art in history on contract to a Scottish earl”.
But Lusieri’s contemporaries found no such irony. Instead they were full of praise for what he had achieved. On seeing the Parthenon sculptures in London in August 1806, JW Turner described the collection “as the last that will be made for the most brilliant period of human nature”. In a letter to Lord Elgin he wrote: “With the rest of mankind who venerate the arts [I] pay my homage to your exertions for this rescue.”
It is also ironic that Cornwell fails to connect his readers with Elgin’s role in fostering the Greek Revival and immortalising Edinburgh as the “Athens of the North”.
Perhaps he could have told us why Thomas Hamilton should have chosen the Temple of Lysicrates as his monument to Robert Burns. Or indeed how it was that Charles Cockerell should have chosen the Parthenon as his model for Scotland’s national monument, which stands unfinished on Calton Hill.
Cornwell praises Lusieri’s virtues as an artist yet fails to recognise his pedagogic genius for overseeing the creation of accurate plaster moulds of the Parthenon sculptures. Since 1831, generations of Scottish artists at the Edinburgh College of Art have learned their drawing skills by studying the casts which Lord Elgin intended for their use. Writing to the captain of the vessel bearing this fragile cargo from Athens in 1802, he instructed: “The cases containing moulds should at all events go home and go with the utmost care… they could be spoilt by want of care…they constitute the most precious acquisition that ever was transmitted to England for the benefit of art and science.”
The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine KT
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west