The British Museum has loaned one of the Elgin Marbles statues to Russia.
It is one of a number of relics acquired by Lord Elgin in Athens in the early 19th Century now known collectively as the Elgin Marbles.
It maintains that Lord Elgin removed them illegally while the country was under Turkish occupation as part of the Ottoman Empire.
The items have remained in the British Museum ever since.
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The greatest things in the world should be… shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible”
Neil McGregor Director, British Museum
The museum director, Neil McGregor, said: “The British Museum is a museum of the world, for the world and nothing demonstrates this more than the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to celebrate its 250th anniversary.”
In a blog for the museum’s website, he wrote that the British Museum had opened its doors in 1759 and the Hermitage just five years later – making them “almost twins… the first great museums of the European Enlightenment“.
The British Museum was today “the most generous lender in the world”, he said, “making a reality of the Enlightenment ideal that the greatest things in the world should be seen and studied, shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible”.
“The trustees have always believed that such loans must continue between museums in spite of political disagreements between governments.”
He added: “When our colleagues at the Hermitage asked if we might also make an important loan to celebrate their 250th anniversary, the Trustees immediately answered yes.
“And no loan could more fittingly mark the long friendship of our two houses, or the period of their founding, than a sculpture from the Parthenon.”