The statue of Athena: the most widely known attraction of Nashville’s Parthenon!

In the 1920s, the Parthenon was rebuilt in Nashville‘s Centennial Park as a full-scale replica of the ancient Grecian Parthenon with one very large exception. The enormous statue of the Greek goddess Athena was left out of the replica. In 1982, after six other sculptors submitted their proposals to recreate the Athena statue in Nashville, the city of Nashville commissioned Alan LeQuire to build a full-scale replica of Athena Parthenos. Soon after LeQuire was commissioned, a group of citizens formed the Athena Fund. Starting with money accumulated over the years from the nickles and dimes of school children and tourists, the Athena Fund eventually began to grow rapidly through private as well as commercial donations. There is a colorful history behind the original Athena Parthenos. Pheidias, who is considered the greatest sculptor of classical antiquity, constructed the original Athena Parthenos on a wooden framework with carved ivory for skin and a gold wardrobe. The statue was unveiled and dedicated in either 438 or 437 BC. This date can be almost pinpointed because of the building accounts of the temple as well as other equally important sources. For example, there are ancient authors, such as Pausanias, who referred to the incredible Athena statue in writings. Athena also appears on Athenian coins of the second and first centuries BC. Later, the Romans copied the statue in small-scale. Even today, on the Acropolis of Athens, you can see the outline of Athena’s base on the floor of the Athenian Parthenon. All of this evidence culminates in LeQuire’s representation of Athena. The replica of the Athena statue was constructed from 1982 to 1990. After exhaustive research, LeQuire created two small-scale versions of the statue out of clay. First, he created a 1:10 model from clay. Later, he sculpted a 1:5 scale model. From this later model, LeQuire spent about three years enlarging and casting the full-size Athena Parthenos. Athena was cast out of gypsum cement in many molds and assembled inside the Parthenon. Each section was attached to a steel armature for support. For twelve years, the replica stood in Nashville’s Parthenon as a plain, white statue. In 2002, Alan LeQuire and Lou Reed were put in charge of the project of gilding the massive statue. The gilding itself too less than a month and makes Athena appear that much closer to the ancient Athena Parthenos. In addition to gilding, the project included painted details on Athena’s face, wardrobe, and shield.

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