The Benaki Museum in Athens

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Antonis Benakis, the son of Emmanouil Benakis, a wealthy Greek who made his fortune in Egypt and later became Mayor of Athens, founded the Benaki Museum in Athens. Antonis Benakis began collecting Islamic art in Alexandria and then collected Byzantine art and Greek folk art once in Athens. He turned the family home of the Benakis family, an elegant neo-classical mansion, into the Benaki Museum in 1931.

The Benaki Museum includes a private collection of over 20,000 objects that are laid out in chronological order in 36 rooms. It provides a panoramic view of Greek history from the Stone Age (7000 BC) to the 20th century. The collection contains a diverse array of Greek arts and crafts, paintings and jewelry, local costumes, and political memorabilia. It depicts the evolution of Greek painting, sculpture, and handicrafts.

The ground floor of the Benaki Museum is a collection that is arranged into different periods and ranges from the Neolithic to Byzantine art. Visitors can find painted vases, gold wreathes of myrtle leaves that were worn 2,300 years ago, and evocative Byzantine icons and jewelry. The first floor is organized geographically. Objects are from Asia Minor, mainland Greece, and the islands. There is a collection of ecclesiastical silverware and jewelry from the period of Ottoman occupation. Traditional costumes, furniture, household items, farm implements, and musical instruments are all located on this floor. The second floor includes items relating to Greek spiritual life, social life, and the economy. The third floor concentrates on the liberation of Greece. Romantic art depicts Greece’s successful 19th century struggle for independence.

Highlights of the Benaki Museum Include:

Evia Treasure

Three cups, two gold and one silver that were hammered into simple forms with minimal decoration. They date from 3000-2800 BC and mark the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age.

Thebes Treasure

Mycenaean gold jewelry that includes an engraved gold signet ring depicting a sacred marriage connected to the worship of a prehistoric goddess.

Thessaly Treasure

Display of Hellenistic and Roman gold jewelry from the 3rd-2nd centuries BC. Minutely crafted earrings, necklaces, bracelets and diadems.

Paintings by El Greco

Two early works of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, otherwise known as the El Greco ones that he completed while still in his native Crete.

Mid 18th Century Reception Room

A reconstruction from a Macedonian mansion. The room is richly painted with a gilded wooden ceiling and paneled walls.

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