BRITISH MUSEUM, Temple Of Nereid

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English / USA Language: English / USA

The Greek and Roman Antiquities collection occupies 13 rooms in the western wing of the British Museum's ground floor. Now that you've admired the Parthenon Marbles, let me tell you about another great monument of classical Greek art: the Nereid Monument.

The temple dates back to about 400 BC, and comes from the ancient region of Lycia, in present-day Turkey. It is a tomb dedicated to a local prince. Its structure, which was originally elevated, consists of a marble façade  resting on a limestone pedestal divided into two levels that are decorated with bas-reliefs.

The temple's main façade  has four columns. The Ionic columns once continued all around the building, as you can deduce from seeing those along the side. As you will have noticed, the building in front of you is just a reconstruction of the monument's main façade . You'll have to use your imagination to try and envisage it in its entirety.

A frieze runs above the columns and also has bas-reliefs, while the small protruding parallelepipeds that you can see are decorations on the upper frame called dentils. And of course, the pediment sits atop the temple.

The room (or cella) that you can see the entrance to behind the columns was the burial chamber. According to studies of the temple, this room was adorned with a panelled ceiling.

Now look at the statues of dancing sea nymphs and dolphins between the columns: these are the Nereids that gave the monument its name.

The remains of this masterpiece were found by an English traveller in 1840. They were sent to the British Museum and reconstructed to show how this fascinating funeral structure once appeared.


FUN FACT: the British Museum features an adults-only treasure hunt. You have to search for erotic or even pornographic works, photograph them with a comment, and catalogue them. What a great way to learn about art history!

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