The Palace of Saints Michael and George on the Ionian island of Corfu is the only museum in Greece dedicated exclusively to art and antiquities from the Far East and India, boasting one of the finest collections of its kind in Europe.
Receiving thousands of visitors each year, the work of the Corfu Museum of Asian Art has come to the attention of the Japanese government, and CMAA director Despina Zernioti is to be awarded on January 30 for its contribution to the promotion of Japanese art in Greece.
In the meantime, the CMAA is planning two exhibitions on Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), the Lefkada-born writer best known for his books about Japan, that will take place at the Athens Municipal Gallery and the Greek Consulate in New York as part of events celebrating Japan-Greece Year in 2019.
The exhibition in the Greek capital, titled “Japan and Literature,” will open on February 15 and will also include a section on the Japanese engraver Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).
The New York show, which will focus exclusively on Hearn, who spent more than 20 years in the United States, is set to open in November. The aim of the show, according to Zernioti, “is to highlight the cultural links between the three countries – Greece, the United States and Japan – through the personality of Lafcadio Hearn.”
The Athens show will present 68 pieces from the Corfu Museum of Asian Art’s collection dating from the 18th to the 20th century, books by Hearn, manga drawings by Hokusai and prints from the Ukiyo-e movement that blossomed in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the meantime, two interesting exhibitions are being planned at the museum itself this year. The first, opening on May 17, celebrates the bicentennial of the palace and the Order of Saints Michael and George, which was founded on the initiative of Sir Thomas Maitland (1759-1824), who was the British governor of Malta and the Ionian islands.
The residential complex that served as Maitland’s residence when he was on the island was also the headquarters of the Ionian Senate and Parliament, while construction of the palace began in 1819 and was completed in 1823.
The Palace of Saints Michael and George is the biggest and most important building representing the period of British rule over the Ionian islands. After the union of the Ionian islands with Greece in 1864, the seat of the order moved to Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The second exhibition, starting on August 3, is dedicated to Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her life in Corfu, showcasing artifacts on loan from the Sisi Museum and the National Library in Vienna.
These include personal belongings shedding light on the popular 19th century historical figure’s personality, fine objets d’art, dresses, jewelry, portraits, photographs, engravings and manuscripts.