I think it is an absolutely great idea that the figure from the West Pediment of the Parthenon we generally know as "Ilissos" has gone on loan to The Hermitage (above). I say "we generally know as", because none of these pedimental pieces are named. This is pretty clearly a river god (what I mean is that it's like other "river gods"!) and we guess it's a local river, so maybe the Ilissos; but it's no more certain than that.
This seems to me a no brainer. Whatever Machiavellian schemes people have been trying to detect behind this loan, the idea that thousands of people in Russia who would have no chance of going to Greece or the UK will have a chance to enjoy this classical masterpiece is something to celebrate. I simply don't see that it has any impact either way on the claims to "repatriation", or is an insult to Greece. I hope that when the furore has died down the Greek authorities may also see (as I am sure some already do) that this is a great advert for ancient Greek culture and its values.
I am also unmoved by the idea that we should not be doing this while Russia is in the Ukraine. When governmental relations get frosty, it's all the more important to keep the cultural relations warm.
And whatever the outcome, or the pros and cons, there is a chance that all this coverage will attract more people to find out a bit more about the Parthenon and its pediments. (I may be uncharitable, but I suspect that some of the shouting today has come from those who havent a clue what the "Ilissos" is.)
Anyway, excellent a move as it seems to me, it came as a complete surprise. I had stayed in London last night, as I had meetings there on Thursday evening and Friday lunchtime, and the plan was to save the travel time between Cambridge and London and use the morning finishing Chapter 5 in my hotel bedroom, rather than on the train. In fact I was woken up before 8.00 by a phone call from a tv news show, asking me what I thought about the Elgin Marbles.
At that stage I didn't know what on earth they were talking about.