Carrey drawings

Jacques Carrey (1649-1726), drawing of the pediment sculpture on the Parthenon, 1674

Carrey drawings

Work on the Parthenon began in 447 B.C. and as we know it was dedicated to the goddess Athena in 432 B.C., we may assume it took 15 years to build. This is a remarkably short time when one considers the application of theoretical concepts and principles of architecture, some of which are still unknown to us; the very high artistic standard of the monument and the large number of sculptures that decorated it. On the frieze alone there were 400 human and 200 animal figures of unique expression and technique. In 450 A.D. the Parthenon was turned into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was not greatly altered, with the exception of the removal of some sculptures on the eastern side to make way for the apse of the Christian church.

When the Franks occupied Athens in 1204, they turned the Parthenon into a Catholic church and when the Turks arrived in 1458 the Parthenon became a mosque with Turkish houses built all around it.

In 1674, the French ambassador to the Sublime Porte in Constantinople, the Marquis de Nointel, paid a visit to Athens accompanied by Jacques Carrey, an artist, who spent two weeks making sketches and drawings of the Parthenon. However hastily-drawn and imperfect these records may have been, they are important to our knowledge of the Acropolis. Now preserved in the Paris Library, the Carrey drawings happened to be made only 13 years before the explosion of a powder magazine partly destroyed the Parthenon during the siege of the Venetian general Francesco Morosini in 1687. Morosini’s bombardment is made more reprehensible by the fact that he knew the Turks were storing gunpowder on the Acropolis.

Carrey’s drawings reveal that up to 1674 the Parthenon had remained intact. The most notable of Carrey’s drawings is that of the west pediment which depicted the legendary quarrel between Athena and Poseidon for the consecration of the city. When he captured the Acropolis, Morosini tried to remove these sculptures. The workmen’s ropes broke, however, as the sculptures were being lowered to the ground and the figure of Poseidon and the horses of his chariot were smashed on the ground. The trunk of Poseidon’s body was later found buried in the soil and escaped the notice of Lord Elgin, which is why it is now in the Acropolis Museum and not in London.

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