THE HIGHLIGHTS OF BENAKI MUSEUM
The private collection was cultivated by Antonis Benakis, a wealthy cotton merchant, in memory of his father Emmanuel Benakis. Housed in the original Benaki family mansion, it is an impressive neoclassical building and one of the few that survived the architectural post-war destruction.
The museum’s extensive collection features relics and objects from 3000 BC up until the beginning of the twentieth century. The ground floor of the Benaki Museum is a collection that is arranged into different periods and ranges from the Neolithic to Byzantine art.
In 2000, the Benaki Museum reopened following a $20 million renovation and restoration of the building, which was damaged in an earthquake. The renovation allowed it to become the only museum in Greece that brings visitors through all ages of Greek culture and history. It is also unique in that it does not focus on nationalism but rather recognizes and celebrates the foreign influences on Greek culture. Although the museum’s director, Angelos Delivorrias, came up with the idea to refocus the museum and its exhibits in 1973, more than 25 years passed before he was able to make this a new reality.
This reality involved moving the museum’s collections of Islamic Art and Chinese porcelain with painting to other locations so that the main museum in Athens would focus solely on Greece.
Highlights of the Benaki Museum include:
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.
Mycenaean gold jewelry that includes an engraved gold signet ring depicting a sacred marriage connected to the worship of a prehistoric goddess.
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.