Benaki Museum: icons

By: | Post date: July 3, 2023 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Greece

I did manage to sneak in to the Benaki Museum before the concert on my last night in Athens. (Free after 6 pm? Open to midnight? Sign me up!)
The Benaki Museum, like many such museums, feels at times like a cliche simply because so many of the paintings it houses have attained meme status. That famous portrait of Lord Byron in Greek garb for example.
On the other hand, I was pretty fatigued, and my curiosity has been ebbing low after 3 months. So I might not have gone as ballistic this visit as I might have when I was feeling more fresh.
I made a big deal while in the Ionian islands of the gradual transition from Byzantine to Weston techniques in icon painting. The transition was on the way in the Crete earlier on, something I was only vaguely aware of, and it was far more subtle. The icon of the military saints looking up into the heavens is one of the more drastic ones for the time. The technique and the faces are still completely byzantine, but people doing anything other than staring straight at the viewer is quite a novelty for Greek painting.
Another late Veneto-Cretan icon, by Tzanes in 1657. Again, the technique and the face is all Byzantium, the body posture is all action-packed Western.

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