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Work: The Parthenon

Architectural model

The Parthenon


240 cm long, 113 cm wide; scale model 1:33
wood, plaster, resin
Greek and Roman


447 - 432 BC
14 m high, 79 m long, 37 m wide
The Acropolis, AthensSi apre in una nuova finestra


The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos, was built on the Acropolis (477 – 438 BC) while Athens was enjoying its greatest prosperity under the statesman Pericles. It replaced a more rectangular temple which had been destroyed by the Persians shortly before, in 479 BC.
The building of the Parthenon was entrusted to Ictinus and Callicrates, under the direction of Phidias who was in charge of the sculptures and reliefs. The Parthenon had a single row of Doric columns surrounding it and 8 columns at the front instead of the usual six which gave it an unusual breadth and dignity. It had 17 columns on the long sides, one more than the double of the columns on the short sides, as the ancient Greek building system required. It was entirely constructed of Pentelic marble.

The Doric and Ionic orders coexisted in the Parthenon: the naos (sanctuary) is surrounded by two storeys of Doric columns, while the opisthodomos (apartment at the back of the temple), featured four full-height columns of the Ionic order. Phidias, aided by his assistants, worked on all the decorative and sculptural elements: the 92 metopes which were carved in relief and show groups of struggling figures – giants and gods, Amazons and Greeks, centaurs and Lapiths, Greeks and Trojans and the Attic myths; the continuous relief frieze, showing the Panathenaic procession (the procession of the youth of Athens to the temple of the mother goddess) all around the centre of the building; the sculptural groups (which were carved in the round) for the two pediments, showing the “Birth of Athena from the head of Zeus” and the “Dispute between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of Attica”.

Finally, there was a free-standing chryselephantine statue (a Greek technique where the naked parts of a figure were covered with ivory and the clothes with gold leaf) of the Goddess Athena which stood in the body of the temple. Over the years the Parthenon has been transformed into a church, then in 1456 to a mosque and in 1687 a bomb destroyed one side.The sense of harmony and proportion derives not least from the many subtle optical refinements that were applied during the construction of the Parthenon, for instance, there are subtle variations in the distance between the columns and in the metope-triglyph rhythm.