CM: This photograph by Petros Moraïtes is the earliest record of the Varvakeion Athena, soon after being unearthed near the namesake school in 1880. It is a small copy (around 1 meter tall) of the colossal Athena Parthenos statue of Pheidias in the Parthenon, Athens. The Varvakeion Athena was created between AD 200 and 250 (around 700 years after the sculpture of Pheidias), and is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.
The original Athena Parthenos was the most renowned cult image of Athens. It is known through brief literary descriptions in Pliny's "Natural History" and Pausanias, as well as from representations in various media, like the present statuette. The Varvakeion Athena is considered to be the closest surviving likeness of the original. It represents goddess Athena standing, fully armed, and elaborately dressed, holding a small statue of Nike in her outstretched right hand and cradling her spear with her left. Her shield rested against her right leg; nearby was a coiled serpent. Her helmet, sandals, and shield were richly decorated; the base of the statue depicted the birth of Pandora watched by 20 gods. The technique of construction, while not known for certain, probably included face, arms, and other skin areas pieced together in ivory, while the drapery, of very thin gold, was applied in detachable sections over a shaped wooden interior. The core probably contained an armature of beams. The projecting right arm may have been supported by a column, as is the case in the Varvakeion statuette.
Pheidias worked on Athena Parthenos from 447-439 BC. More than 1000 kg gold was used for the gold ivory statue, the costs estimated between 700 and 1000 talents. Lachares removed the gold sheets in 296 BC to pay his troops, and the bronze replacements for them were probably gilded thereafter; it was damaged by a fire about 165 BC but repaired. It continued to stand in the Parthenon in the 5 th century AD, when it may have been lost in another fire. An account mentions it in Constantinople in the 10 th century, after which point its traces are lost.
[Megakles Rogakos - 08/2006]
BIBLIOGRAPHY: XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. 19th Century Greece through the Lens of Petros Moraïtes 2001 Potamos, Athens