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Benaki Museum

Benaki Museum (38)

This Athenian museum is a genuine five-star museum in the capital. Wealthy cotton merchant Emmanuel Antoine Benaki was a conscientious collector who came to collect pieces of all styles and eras for nearly forty years In his mansion, which is now home to the museum, collected crafts, painting, jewellery and textiles from the time between the Neolithic Era and the early 20th century. Almost nothing, right?

The Neoclassical house was the family home, and its elegance dates back to 1867, although it later underwent several reforms. In order to convert this mansion into a museum, its interior was adapted. And, as you will appreciate, a collection like this, more than thirty thousand pieces, would not fit into four display cases in the guest rooms. 

Forty rooms spread over four floors of the museum; you should save yourself some time for a closer look. 

As a guide, the ground floor collection is arranged according to chronological periods, and reviews the history of Greek art from the Neolithic Era to the Byzantine Empire. Mycenaean pieces, ceramics, icons, mosaics, etc. all have places in this gallery. Here are two of Benaki's jewels. One of them, the Fayum mummy portraits is a beautiful work dating from the 3rd century. It is a Hellenistic portrait of a young man with truly admirable realism and detail. 

On the first floor, which is also the atrium, the collection is divided between mainland Greece, the islands and Asia Minor. Here you will see the evolution of Hellenism during the Ottoman domination and religious art from the late Byzantine era. In this context, the icon of St Anna is highlighted, belonging to the 15th century. The curious thing about this picture is that the saint is holding the Virgin Mary as a child in her arms, holding a white lily as a symbol of purity. Religious silverware and jewellery are also displayed on this floor. 

Do not think that there is nothing more to the Benaki. After all you have seen so far, there is much more on the second floor, which brings together religious objects and objects related to the Greek daily life before the war of independence in the 19th century. So, here you can see bridal outfits, traditional costumes, decorative objects, embroidered cushions, ceramics and other pieces of folk art, offering a curious and entertaining tour. 

Finally, the third floor is small in size and focuses on the war of independence, as well as some aspects of modern Greece. The pieces her include the desktop of Lord Byron.

A part of this short floor-to-floor tour of the Benaki Museum, you should also pay special attention to the Egyptian collections. In one of the museum's rooms, for example, the reception hall of a 17th-century Egyptian palace is recreated. 

The museum's library, with more than forty-five thousand books, is open to researchers, and is highly valued in these study circles. 

After touring the halls, galleries and corridors to see works by El Greco, Mycenae jewellery, silver goblets and wood from Macedonia, you will surely want a break. You can enjoy a drink in the museum café, whose terrace is located in the National Gardens.

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