(With thanks to Steven Lalioff for providing the research!)

It’d be a breeze to find a year’s worth of favorites sprinkled all over the campus of what was the John Herron Art Institute (predecessor to the IMA and the now IU affiliated art school), and what is now Herron High School–fronting 16th, and straddled by Pennsylvania Street and Talbott Avenue.

Today’s favorite is an aging archaeological find. From the pinnacle of power in ancient Greece, to the fair metropolis of Indianapolis, Indiana comes an early plaster replica of a marble frieze straight off The Parthenon. Originally sculpted between 443-438 BCE and wrapped around the upper portion of the Parthenon’s “naos” or temple, this piece is believed to have been cast circa 1924. The Parthenon frieze pieces are also known as the Elgin Marbles, and are part of the permanent collection on display in London’s British Museum. In the early 20th century a selection of castings were made directly from some of the Parthenon friezes. Herron’s frieze is one of a handful of surviving plaster friezes that were cast directly from the original marble frieze, a practice that was soon after discontinued due to concerns about damage to the integrity of the marble originals.

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For almost a century, this plaster frieze replica has been chilling (or steaming as the case may be) on the southwest border of Herron-Morton Place…and it’s a bit worse for the wear because of it. This beautiful, aging piece of art sustained damage in the years since the John Herron Art Institute relocated to the IUPUI campus. The fragile frieze was removed recently by workmen with painstaking care and is now on display at City Gallery.

For years, scholars believed the friezes depicted the procession of the Athenian festival called the Panathenaea– held every 4 years as a supplication to the Goddess Athena. Herron’s frieze represents the beginning of the procession, showing horses and riders being bridled and dressed before entering the procession proper. Today there is ongoing scholarly debate whether the frieze truly depicts a “contemporary” event such as the Panathenaea, or if it depicted a mythological or historical event that was relevant to classical Greek culture.

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Herron’s “Main” building was designed by Paul Philip Cret in 1929, and served as classrooms and studios of the John Herron Art Institute until 2005. This replica of the Parthenon frieze was installed soon after the building was completed. Very few of these true-to-scale plaster reproductions have survived. This frieze cast is thought to be one of few remaining in the world. Similar castings of the Parthenon frieze may be found in the Beazley archive at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, and at a handful of museums and universities around the world.

This artwork, representative of the High Classical period of Greek art, has provided artists and scholars with inspiration for more than 2000 years. The imagination it inspires is timeless. The reproduction of the ancient frieze fits neatly into Herron High School’s curriculum of classical education and art history timeline, where classical history, art and literature are taught along with contemporary math and science.

Funding is needed to restore the frieze so that it can once again serve as inspiration to students. Conservators are currently examining the frieze to determine the best method of stabilizing the large plaster casting in order to make it presentable for permanent display once Herron High School’s “Main” building is fully restored.

This rare frieze is on display now in the window of the City Gallery while it awaits restoration. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the casting and see it in its “before” condition.

Anyone out there remember seeing the frieze while attending Herron?

Additional Information:

Size 65.5″ x 43″ x 4″
Weight approx 130-150#
Original carved between 443-438 BCE, replica is circa 1924
The marble frieze depicts the style of art referred to as a “low-relief” frieze.
The original frieze’s were painted and finished with metal details. No color survives on the originals.
Parthenon was destroyed in 1687 by Venetian bombardment during the Morean War.
The majority of the original frieze is currently on display at the British Museum in London.
Originally totaling 524 feet in length, 420 feet survive….approximately 80%
Herron’s frieze is number XLII (42)
Additional smaller plaster reproductions of Parthenon friezes adorn the walls in Herron’s “Main” building.