The Elgin Drawings

“Of Lusieri’s indefatigable zeal I cannot speak in terms of sufficient praise. His conduct ought to make some of his colleagues blush. The first modeller is a very decent man; but his subaltern has worked with such unremitted assiduity, that the labouring oar may be said to have fallen on him. In consequence of Lusieri’s repeated requests, I have ventured to double this man’s little stipend [q.v.]. Of the Architects and the Calmuc [Feodor, the figure painter], I cannot speak in terms of approbation, except as to the execution of their works – they proceed extremely slowly, and have associated so much with Fauvel, that they are even suspected of intentions of concealing copies and measures with an intention to carry them to Paris. They are strictly watched, and if they have not yet found means to smuggle any packets, it will now be difficult to accomplish it. Before they depart from hence they will be strictly searched in presence of Janissaries.” (Hunt reporting to Elgin, July 31, 1801)

“I have no reason to be pleased with the conduct and works of the architects, and not at all with Feodor [figure painter] who has not worked, and does not want to do what he ought. He is a man who does not care to stop long in one place, and has long been anxious to go off. I am afraid I may have to dismiss him, after having employed all possible means to bring him to reason. But I see I must send him away as soon as possible as his example will make the others still worse. I will draw all that he has not done . . ." (Lusieri reporting to Elgin, October 26, 1801)

The value of the Elgin Drawings lies in what their name conveys rather than what they visually represent. Seeing them raises more questions than answers and is comparable to the disappointment of experiencing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre for the first time.