“Antiquarianism and Philhellenism: The Thanassis and Marina Martinos Collection”
On the occasion of the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution of 1821, the Museum of Cycladic Art presents the exhibition Antiquarianism and Philhellenism: The Thanassis and Marina Martinos Collection in the Stathatos Mansion. Rare and original in its concept, the exhibition includes important nineteenth-century European and Greek Neoclassical works, in dialogue with ancient masterpieces, and is curated by art historian Dr Fani–Maria Tsigakou and Professor Nikolaos Chr. Stampolidis. Organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, co-organised with and sponsored by the AEGEAS Non-Profit Civil Company for Culture and Social Welfare, the exhibition will open to the public as soon as museums open their doors to the public. In the meantime, a free virtual guided tour of the exhibition is available on the new microsite, https://1821.cycladic.gr.
The overwhelming majority of pieces displayed are from the Thanassis and Marina Martinos Collection, a unique treasure trove of Philhellenic chefs d’oeuvre, which is presented to the public for the first time. These are European, philhellenic artistic creations, as well as works by Greek artists inspired by subjects of antiquity, in dialogue with authentic antiquities from major museums in Italy and Greece, such as the Capitoline Museums of Rome, the National Archaeological Museum of Venice, the Ostia Archaeological Museum, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Ancient Eleutherna, and the Rethymnon Archaeological Museum.
The exhibition Antiquarianism and Philhellenism: The Thanassis and Marina Martinos Collection is part of the “Dialogues” which the Museum of Cycladic Art has established in recent years. These are conversations between artworks that bridge different periods, revealing influences of the past in the present. Aim of the organizers is not merely to mount a historical or anniversary exhibition, or to approach the period through the military events, but to enhance two major currents, of Antiquarianism and Philhellenism, the one generative cause and the other fertile consequence, which aided the 1821 War of Independence and the founding of the Greek State.
The exhibition focuses on the antiquarian aspects of the philhellenic movement, before, during and after the Revolution. Antiquarianism was the most enduring link between Europeans and Greece. In the course of the Revolution it was transformed into Philhellenism and was imprinted visually in European artworks, while after the creation of the Greek State it was adopted by Greek Neoclassical artists in their endeavour to show the unbroken continuity of the ancient Hellenic heritage.
The exhibition includes 60 works from the Martinos Collection – oil paintings, sculptures, and diverse art objects such as figureheads, clocks, decorative porcelains, furniture, jewellery, urns, a wallpaper panorama, an embroidery, and a fan. Also displayed are five antiquities and one cast of a Roman antiquity.
The selected philhellenic works capture the presence of ancient Hellas through antique motifs alluding to the ancestral legacy which the Greek freedom-fighters were defending and which at the same time was inspiring them in their cause.
From the “dialogues” of exhibits, the visitor’s eye is captivated by the emblematic marble statue of a wounded Amazon, from the Capitoline Museum of Rome, a work of the second century AD, which is a Roman copy of a fifth-century BC Greek original, in all probability by the sculptor Polykleitos, in dialogue with the wooden figurehead in the form of an Amazon, from the Martinos Collection, a late eighteenth-century work by the French carver Douin Pete. The small second-century AD stone statue of Athena, from Ancient Eleutherna and the Rethymnon Archaeological Museum, confers with the early nineteenth-century figurehead with Athena, in the Martinos Collection. The cast of the bust of General Themistocles, of the second century AD, from Ostia Archaeological Museum, recalls the figurehead of Themistocles of the early nineteenth century from the Collection, while the statuette of Odysseus from the National Archaeological Museum of Venice is interlocutor with Βenedetto Sangiovanni’s sculpture of Odysseas Androutsos with his dog, of 1836. Last, the first-century AD herm of Sappho with the inscription «ΣΑΠΦΩ ΕΡΕΣΙΑ» (Sappho Eresian), from Capitoline Museum of Rome, and the Attic red-figure hydria with representation of a female musician (Sappho) of 440-430 BC, from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, are in dialogue with the Collection’s table clock Madame de Stael as Sappho, of 1830.
The ancient masterpieces discourse with their Neoclassical versions inside the emblematic Stathatos Mansion, splendid example of Greek Neoclassical architecture, designed by Ernst Ziller, which was the home of the family of Othon and Amalia Stathatos until 1938. The public will have the unique opportunity of seeing the interior of an actual haut bourgeois European residence of the nineteenth century, while living a theatrical experience. The space has been transformed by Chloe Obolensky, who signs her first set design for a museum exhibition, together with Andreas Georgiadis.