Craftsmanship, war and peace in popular art

new temporary exhibition at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum aims to familiarize visitors with Greek popular art, a part of local heritage that doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves. «Stories in Silver: Snuff Boxes and Traditional Bullet Cases from the Vassilis Korkolopoulos Collection» runs to June 10. Showcasing a number of items stemming mainly from the 1800s, the exhibition offers rare insight into the creativity of silversmiths and jewelers working during a challenging period. While the bullet cases were used in battle – an integral accessory of chieftains – the snuff boxes are linked to the developing middle class of liberated, modern Greece. Also on display is a collection of medoularia, decorated pieces used for the storage of fat for gun cleaning. The intriguing collection was developed primarily in the last decade through a series of journeys departing from Athens for Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Naflpio, Istanbul, London and Paris, where the avid collector traced items at auctions and antique stores. Known as palaskes, the traditional bullet cases were functional objects used in fighting. Displaying minute detail and craftsmanship, these objects ultimately show the development of decorative and applied arts in Greece, Russia and other regions. Most of all, they become a kind of unique testimony, an illustration of the country before and after the revolution. Love, history and religion turn out to be the main themes here: The goddess Athena symbolizing the Greek struggle for freedom, the death of the hero Athanassios Diakos, the arrival of young King Otto and the rule of King George. Snuff boxes – which frequently served as engagements gifts – also marked occasions for describing feelings, faith and the past through motifs ranging from mythological figures to legendary places and hearts. At the museum a number of snuff boxes feature the niello technique, where a mixture of two or more metals create patterns on the surface of other metals – a method often used instead of enamel. In an attempt to portray how these meticulously crafted accessories were matched with the period’s local and varied attire, the exhibition is complemented by a series of traditional costumes on loan from the Lyceum of Greek Women and its Museum of the History of Greek Costumes. Furthermore, the exhibition is scheduled to serve as a pilot educational program for volunteers. Acting as a group, volunteers are invited to conduct research and come up with their own suggestions for the show, including selection and display of the items and communication strategies. Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, 4a Karyatidon & 12 Kallisperi, Acropolis, tel 210.922.1044, 210.923.9260. Guided tours upon request.

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