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François Fouquet (1787 - 1870), maker

Model of the ancient Greek Propylaea in Athens, 'restored', c.1800-1834

Plaster of Paris

Height: 18cm
Width: 31cm
Depth: 24cm

Museum number: MR21

Curatorial note

Although today the Parthenon is considered the most beautiful building on the Acropolis in Athens, in antiquity it was the entrance gateway – the Propylaea – which was considered the most magnificent. Rebuilt along with the Parthenon following the sack of the Acropolis by the Persians, the Propylaea, according to Plutarch, is the work of the architect Mnesikles. Building started in 437 BC and the gateway remained unfinished when work ended in 432 BC. Despite this, the Greek writer Pausanias, who lived during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, was admiring of the structure:
There is but one entry to the Acropolis....The gateway has a roof of white marble, and ... it is unrivalled for the beauty and size of its stones.

Fouquet has based his reconstruction of the Propylaea on plates XII and XIII of Le Roy’s Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce, only slightly simplifying the ground plan. The model shows the central gateway structure with its two Doric porticoes flanked by two side wings. The north-west wing (left on the model) in antiquity housed the Pinakhoteke (Picture Gallery). The opposite south-east wing was built to give the structure symmetry.

Fouquet has even shown the interior of the central gate structure, its roof supported by elegant Ionic columns. This originally had benches along the walls and was possibly used as a waiting area for visitors about to enter the sacred precinct.

The word Propylaea, Propylea or Propylaia is also used to describe any monumental gateway based on this Propylaea in Athens.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Sir John Soane purchased the twenty models by François Fouquet in 1834 from the architect Edward Cresy (1792-1858) who, from 1829 to 1835, worked in Paris. Soane paid Cresy the substantial sum of £100 (£10,136.78 in today’s money). It is likely that Cresy purchased the models directly from Fouquet et Fils.

Exhibition history

Wonders of the Ancient World: François Fouquet's Model Masterpieces, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 15 July - 22 November 2011


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk