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date: 08 December 2019

Benaki, Anthonylocked

(b Alexandria, 1873; d Athens, 1954).
  • revised by Sheila S. Blair
  • Jonathan M. Bloom

Extract

(b Alexandria, 1873; d Athens, 1954).

Greek patron. A Greek cotton merchant, Benaki was born at a time when the memory of the War of Independence (1821–9) inspired strong feelings of nationalism in Greeks living abroad. Benaki assembled a collection of objects—art, crafts and souvenirs—that expresses the historical continuum of Greece and pride in the Greek cultural heritage. in 1926 he moved permanently to Athens where in 1930 he founded the Benaki Museum, inaugurated the following year when Benaki presented his collections, along with what had been the Benaki family home in Athens and substantial funds for its maintenance, to the Greek government. Benaki had supervised the transformation of the house into a museum, wanting to preserve the intimate atmosphere of a family home; he continued to work towards maintaining and enriching the museum until his death. The Benaki Museum’s collections include examples of the antique and Byzantine art for which Greece is traditionally best known, as well as icons from Cyprus, Muslim art representing the Ottoman Empire, souvenirs from the war of independence and examples of national costume from all over the country. The Islamic material—principally ceramics and textiles from Egypt and the Ottoman Empire along with gold jewellery—was spread over two rooms on the first floor and one on the second....

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