Height: 17.000 inches
Width: 18.000 inches
GR 1864.2-20.18 (Sculpture 302)
Room 18: Greece: Parthenon
Fragment of a marble shield
Roman, about AD 200-300
Copy of the shield of the statue of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon
The Parthenon in Athens was built about 447-438 BC to house a colossal statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos ('the maiden'). The temple was the crowning glory of a great programme of architectural renewal masterminded by Perikles, who was then leader of the Athenian democracy. The statue was constructed from gold and ivory by Pheidias, the most famous sculptor of all antiquity. Athena was shown with one hand resting on a shield, which was carved with scenes of battle between Greeks and Amazons, a female race of warriors.
The statue has not survived. Knowledge of its physical appearance must be pieced together from literary descriptions and representations of it in other artworks, such as this reduced-scale copy of Athena's shield.
According to ancient tradition, Phidias contrived to place a portrait of himself and of Perikles on the shield. It has been suggested that they are the two men who stand back-to-back below the central mask of a gorgon: Phidias would be the balding figure on the left with arms raised, with Perikles to the right, one foot raised on a fallen Amazon and arms raised obscuring his face from view.
B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)