Working hard at giving it away: Lord Duveen, the British Museum and the Elgin marbles



In September 1928, just after the publication of the report of the royal commission on National Museums and Galleries, the art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen wrote to his good friend Edgar Vincent, Viscount D’Abernon, who had chaired the commission, offering to pay for a new gallery at the British Museum to house the Parthenon, or Elgin, marbles. The new gallery cost over £100,000 and took ten years to complete, during which time Duveen worked hard to impose his vision of a new gallery – a vision often at odds with that of the Museum establishment, and one that generated controversy, including the unauthorized cleaning of the marbles.