Art History Prof Helps Restore the Metopes of the Parthenon

Art History Prof Helps Restore the Metopes of the Parthenon

VR image of reconstruction drawing for Parthenon East Metope 7, showing Hera driving a chariot with winged horses.

VR image developed out of Dr. Schwab's published reconstruction drawing for Parthenon East Metope 7, showing Hera driving a chariot with winged horses. Copyright 2021 Flyover Zone. All rights reserved.

Dr. Katherine Schwab, professor of art history in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, serves as a leading scholarly consultant to virtual tourism company Flyover Zone’s project to restore Parthenon metopes.

Flyover Zone, a world leader in the emerging field of virtual tourism, creates virtual reality tours of cultural heritage sites. Often used for educational purposes in the classroom, these virtual tours also present reconstructions of monuments and art as they would have looked in their day.

For their newest project Athens Reborn: Acropolis, Flyover Zone enlisted Dr. Katherine Schwab, professor of art history in the College of Arts and Sciences and curator of the plaster cast collection at the Fairfield University Art Museum, as a scholarly consultant specifically to provide assistance with the Parthenon metopes. 

The metopes of the Parthenon are the surviving set of what were originally 92 square, carved plaques of Pentelic marble originally located above the columns of the Parthenon peristyle on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece.

“Many scholars, past and present, have worked on the Parthenon sculptural program,” said Dr. Schwab. “Only a few of us work on the metopes, especially those on the east, north and west sides, because these metopes have suffered great damage.”

Dr. Schwab, who is widely considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the Parthenon metopes, has devoted much of her career to them, “learning and discovering new evidence to help us gain a better understanding of the original compositions.”

For this collaboration, Dr. Schwab works closely with Flyover Zone’s Art Director Mohamed Abdelaziz for the 3D restoration, and since he’s based in Egypt, the pair meet regularly over Zoom. Their working method, Dr. Schwab explained, includes notations that she makes on a print of her reconstruction drawings. Then, Abdelaziz incorporates it into the set of plaster casts of the Parthenon metopes in the Skulpturhalle Basel, in Switzerland. After his initial “Sketchfab image” is created, Dr. Schwab offers edits, suggestions, or changes as needed.

Once the virtual reality experience is complete, it will be made available through the DiMenna-Nyselius Library.

“Students will experience walking on the ancient Athenian Acropolis with the monuments fully restored,” Dr. Schwab said. “It will give [them] a much greater understanding of the original appearance.”

Dr. Schwab’s scholarly activity on the Parthenon sculptural program and ancient Greek hairstyles includes several book chapters, journal articles, and videography. From 2014 to 2018, she exhibited her original Parthenon drawings, An Archaeologist’s Eye: The Parthenon Drawings of Katherine A. Schwab, throughout the U.S., in: the Consulate General of Greece in NYC, the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia, the Lied Art Gallery at Creighton University, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University, the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin and Marshall College, the Forsyth Galleries at Texas A&M, and the Parthenon in Nashville. She has also exhibited her photographs of the Caryatid Hairstyling Project (2015) and The Island of Nisyros: A Photographic Essay (2019) at the Greek Consulate in NYC.

Dr. Schwab has been awarded three fellowships by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Robert E. Wall Award at Fairfield, as well as other honors and grants in support of her research on the Parthenon Metopes, the Caryatid Hairstyling Project, and restoration work on the plaster cast collection. The historic plaster cast collection includes gifts from the Acropolis Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and individuals, as well as significant loans and gifts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Grayscale scans of her research drawings are on permanent display in the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece.

Dr. Schwab received her BA from Scripps College, her MA from Southern Methodist University, and her PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Learn more about Dr. Schwab and Fairfield University’s art history and visual culture program.

Tags:  Top Stories,  College of Arts & Sciences


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