One of the world’s most famous collections of Greek treasures, the magnificent Benaki collection from Athens, visited Australia for the first time.
Greek treasures: from the Benaki Museum in Athens featured over 160 treasures from the collection on loan from the Benaki Museum in Athens. The objects span an incredible eight thousand years - from 6,000 BC to the early 19th century Greek War of Independence.
The Benaki collection is one of the most extensive of its kind in the world, spanning eight millennia of Greek history and prehistoric times. The collection illustrates the vibrancy of Greek domestic, political and artistic life and the rich creativity of this culture.
From figurines, ceramics, embroidered textiles, gold jewellery and Coptic-period toys, to Byzantine painted icons and metal ware, architectural fragments, ornate weapons, watercolours and oil paintings, the objects are truly diverse and exquisite.
Some of the earliest objects include beautiful marble sculptures (circ 2500 BC), known as Cycladic idols, from the Cycladic islands in the Aegean. These stylised human forms are famed for their abstract modern appearance which influenced 20th century artists such as British sculptor Henry Moore.
Byzantine art (4th-15th centuries) including rare textiles of gold-wrapped thread and ornate gold and precious stone jewellery will be displayed, along with lavish 18th and 19th century costumes showing the diversity of the cultures between the multitude of islands and regions of mainland Greece.
Elaborate 19th century watercolours and oil paintings show the once remote remains of Athens such as the original Parthenon, as well as portraits. One famous portrait is that of Lord Byron whose death in 1824 during a battle for Greek independence inspired greater European support for the Greek cause.
The Benaki collection was founded by the Benaki family (mid 19th to mid 20th centuries) in Alexandria, Egypt, then part of the Greek Diaspora. The collection was principally formed by Anthony Benaki who was a true patriot and whose love of Greece is reflected by the extensive and diverse range of objects. In 1931 the family’s collection became the Benaki Museum and it continues to thrive today with three branches of the Museum currently open in Athens, and more planned for the future.
Greek treasures from the Benaki Museum in Athens