The Benaki Museum of Greek Culture is one of the most-visited museums in Athens. It’s on four floors in a beautiful neoclassical building near the Greek Parliament buildings and National Garden. The museum houses artifacts and works of art “representing all eras of Greek history from prehistoric to modern times”.
“The Benaki Museum building was offered to Ethnos, a Greek newspaper, for the creation of a museum to host the collections of Antonis Benakis and his sisters, Alexandra, Penelope, and Argini. It houses unique exhibitions of Greek culture.”
Antonis’ original collections are the core of the museum. They include ancient Byzantine, post-Byzantine, and Islamic objects and works of art. Born in Alexandria Egypt, Antonis began compiling his collection in Egypt during 1928. After returning to Greece, he donated his collections to the Greek state, and they’re now part of the Benakis Museum. Over the years, a continual increase in the museum’s collections has necessitated the expansion of the building and creation of annexes.
The Benaki Museum includes the following collections:
Ground Floor – Neolithic Period, Bronze Age, Classical Period, Hellenistic and Roman Periods, late antiquity, Byzantium, Greek Icons 15 to 17 c.
First Floor – 17 to 19 c. vernacular art, including pottery, sculpture, costumes, jewellery, and paintings
Second Floor – 1821, the feast Christon Bokoros
Third Floor – Greek War of Independence, reign of Othon, first Greek Constitution, reign of George I, era of Eleftherios Venizelos – former Greek Prime Minister, Greco-Turkish War (a.k.a. Asia Minor Catastrophe), Greek Interwar, and World War II
The collections are all impressive, but I thought the religious icons from the 15 to 17 century and 1821: The Collectors Choice – were the most fascinating. Photos of some of the beautiful icons and paintings are attached. Each has a compelling story.
Christos Bokoros 1821, the feast
During the 90s, Christos Bokoros “attempted to depict shared memory and temptations of the invisible, light, and dark”.
Bokoros’ work takes place under the “1821 – 2021 Initiative”. The initiative is a result of the “cooperation of 15 Institutions and the National Bank of Greece for celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution of 1821”.
Icons of the Cretan School 15th – 17th Century
The breathtaking Greek icons on display are mesmerizingly beautiful! My photos don’t come close to depicting the rich, vivid colors and images. Their historical significance is immense. The exquisite icons are a testament to the “quality and aesthetic value of the Byzantine art tradition”.
Constantinople and Venetian domination of the island of Crete from 1204 are said to have created the “explosive phenomenon of the Cretan Renaissance“. The “Cretan School” epitomizes the art of post-Byzantine icon painting, that “flourished during Venetian and Ottoman rule”.
This form of art became the “central force in Greek painting during the 15th to 17th centuries”. Cretan artists “developed a style under the influence of Eastern and Western artistic traditions and movements”.
1821: The Collectors’ Choice
“In continuation of the tribute to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, which was inaugurated with the exhibition 1821 Before and After,” the Benaki Museum presents the exhibition 1821: The Collectors’ Choice. The exhibition contains works from four important private collections.”
“The year 2021 marks the bicentenary of the pivotal year in modern Greek history, 1821, when the revolution which resulted in Greece’s independence was declared.” http://www.Benaki.org
During my tour of the museum, this exhibition was a favorite, I especially enjoyed the paintings. It includes more than 300 objects related to the Revolution of 1821 and the Philhellenism movement in Europe and America.