In a surprise move, the British Museum has loaned one of the Parthenon sculptures to the State Hermitage Museum, which is due to go on display on Saturday in St Petersburg until 18 January 2015, The Times first reported today.
The historic loan is the first time one of the sculptures has left Britain since they were controversially taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin and brought to London in the early 19th century.
The sculpture, which depicts the river god Ilissos, is one of the star objects in an exhibition marking the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage.
“The goodwill gesture is more than a special birthday present from one encyclopaedic museum to another. It could help break the stalemate between the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which share the majority of these great works of art if the Greek government decides to change tack and ask for loans, instead of calling for the sculpture’s return,” says Javier Pes, the deputy editor of The Art Newspaper.