Inside the Parthenon at Nashville's Centennial Park, you'll find an amazing statue of the Greek goddess of wisdom known as Athena.
Athena stands almost 42 feet tall, leaving only about 12 inches between the top of her crown and the ceiling. Weighing about 12 tons, the statue is the largest indoor sculpture in the Western world and is a recreation of Greece's Athena Parthenos statue.
The statue is adorned with a crown, breastplate, bracelets, and robe all a beautiful golden color. In her hand stands a six foot statue of the Nike, the goddess of victory. Nike holds a wreath of victory and is preparing to crown Athena.
This amazing sculpture along with the Parthenon offers visitors the chance to experience a little bit ancient Greece in Nashville, Tennessee. This awe-inspiring statue is definitely something worth seeing.
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In the 1920s, the Parthenon was rebuilt as a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon with one large exception. The colossal statue of Athena from ancient times was not in this replica. In 1982, the city commissioned Alan LeQuire to build a full-scale replica of Athena Parthenos. Soon after, a group of concerned citizens formed the Athena Fund. Starting with funds accumulated over the years from the nickels and dimes of school children and tourists, the Athena Fund grew rapidly through private and commercial donations.
In 1982 seven sculptors submitted proposals to recreate the Athena statue in Nashville. Alan LeQuire won the commission because of his skill and commitment to accuracy. LeQuire attended Vanderbilt University and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1981.
LeQuire, a Nashville native, began his journey by researching the Athena statue of antiquity. What we know about the Athena statue from the ancient Parthenon is somewhat limited. The gold and ivory statue was lost by 400 A.D. Historical documentation is brief but does exist. LeQuire also depended on modern classical scholars for the most recent archaeological information.
The Original Sculptor
Pheidias, the greatest sculptor of classical antiquity, constructed the Athena Parthenos on a wooden framework with carved ivory for skin and a gold wardrobe. The statue was unveiled and dedicated in 438 or 437 B.C. We depend on this date based on the building accounts of the temple. Other sources are equally important. For example, there are ancient authors, such as Pausanias, who referred to the Athena statue in writings. Athena appears on Athenian coins of the second and first centuries B.C. Later, Romans copied the statue in small-scale. Even today on the Acropolis you can see the outline of Athena's base on the floor of the Parthenon. All of this evidence culminates in LeQuire's Athena.
After exhaustive research, Alan 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.
The Athena statue was constructed from 1982 to 1990. It stood in Nashville’s Parthenon as a plain, white statue for 12 years. In 2002, the Parthenon gilded Athena with Alan LeQuire and master gilder Lou Reed in charge of the project. The gilding project took less than four months and makes Athena appear that much closer to the ancient Athena Parthenos. In addition to gilding, the project included painted details on her face, wardrobe, and shield.