CULTURE

Benaki Museum’s new periodical

After its renovation and since reopening a few years ago, the Benaki Museum is living up to its reputation as one of the country’s most prestigious institutions. It has hosted exhibitions of diverse content, acquired new holdings, embraced contemporary art and expanded its premises, both with the new building on Pireos Street and the new annex on Islamic art due to open in early summer. It has also initiated the circulation of an annual periodical, a publication that includes specialized essays written by the museum’s curators and experts in each field on subjects related to the museum’s holdings. The periodical – essentially a book, the third issue of which was just published – includes 12 essays (written in Greek, English or French) on themes ranging from an iconographic analysis of two newly acquired Hellenistic sculptures from Alexandria to an analysis of cafe and taverna scenes by the Greek modern artist Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika. Most essays address current issues for the museum. Two of them on the museum’s Islamic art collection, for example, anticipate the opening of the new annex. Late Mamluk metalwork is examined by Maria Sardi. Dating from around the end of the 15th century (the later period of the Mamluk Dynasty, established by a military tribe of Turkish origins) in the region of Egypt, this collection of copperware includes 10 large serving plates that probably belonged to the Mamluk emirs or the sultan himself. Their decorative motifs reflect the Ottoman influence on Islamic art. Iznik hanging ornaments are the subject of John Carswell’s essay. These ornaments were commonly found in 16th century mosques and were used as lamps. They are recognizable for the cobalt blue-colored decoration that is the most typical aspect of Iznik 16th century pottery. Another interesting essay that touches on a current issue is that which examines the set of nine Middle Byzantine silver-gilt dishes that have been on display at the Benaki Museum since last fall. The authors are Anna Balian and Anastassia Drandaki. Previously unknown to specialists in the field, these plates are considered a treasure of their kind. The Benaki Museum along with the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens and the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki have set out to raise funds to permanently acquire the collection.