The Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum contains objects dating from the Prehistoric to the Modern era, highlighting the diachronic continuity of Greek art. The Museum’s exhibits are displayed chronologically and thematically in two wings. To the right of the entrance, the new wing houses the collection of objects dating from the Prehistoric to the Roman age, while the old building hosts exhibits dating from the Early Christian to the Post-Byzantine age, as well as various exhibits from the Modern age.
The New Wing
The visit to the Museum starts from the vestibule of the new wing, where there are two display cases containing figurines, vessels, tools and weapons from Egypt and Mesopotamia as well as Cyprus. To the left, on the landing of the ascending staircase, three marble funerary lekythoi are displayed.
In this gallery, which is the largest in the new wing, the main body of the collection of Prehistoric and Classical antiquities is on display. The exhibit begins with objects from the Neolithic age and continues with the cultures that flourished in the Aegean during the Bronze Age, i.e. during the third-second millennia B.C. There is a representative and varied display of Cycladic marble figurines and utensils, Minoan terracotta and bronze figurines, stone and clay utensils, Mycenaean pottery and terracotta figurines, as well as bronze weapons and tools. Geometric art (10th-8th c. B.C.) is represented by decorative pottery and by terracotta and bronze figurines of horses and riders characteristic of this period.
There are also many objects dating to the Archaic age (7th-6th c. B.C.) from what were then the most important centers of the Ancient Greek world, in testament to its wealth and power. Characteristically we may note Cretan storage jars (pithoi) with relief decoration, Corinthian pottery, Boeotian and Attic vases, protomes, and figurines. There is a large and impressive collection of Attic black- and red-figure vases dating to the 6th, 5th, and 4th centuries B.C., with scenes from daily life and the realm of myth. There is also a particularly impressive group of white-ground lekythoi, which were funerary vases, with polychrome decoration on a white background. The series of 4th century B.C. terracotta figurines displays a great variety, depicting predominantly female figures known as “Tanagra figurines”. These are followed by objects from Apulia, Egypt and Messapia on the Adriatic Sea, while another section of exhibits includes Roman terracotta lamps and figurines.
There is a rare bronze ship’s ram in the shape of a marin mammal’s snout, and an important group of Classical bronze vases. In the center of the gallery, its most impressive exhibits are displayed in individual cases. From these, we may single out two Nikosthenic amphorae with erotic scenes and a scene of Maenads and Satyrs, a red-figure crater by the Dinos Painter with a depiction of Meleager departing to participate in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, an inscribed bronze lebes, a prize from games held in honor of those who had fallen in battle (probably at Marathon), and a black-figure hydria depicting women in front of a fountain. The most noteworthy marble sculptures in this gallery include a colossal female head, probably of a goddess, and a head of Alexander dating to the Roman period.
The thematically-arranged exhibits in this gallery complete the collection of Prehistoric and Classical antiquities. They include sections on bronze weapons and helmets, bronze figurines, coins, weights and measures, and minor objects from daily life, as well as an impressive group of largely funerary jewelry dating to various periods made of gold, silver, bronze and semi-precious stones. Most of the marble objects in the Museum are also displayed here. These date from the Archaic to the Late Roman period. Marble displays include statues, funerary reliefs, and Roman portraits; a funerary lion, a group of Eros and Psyche, a decorated Roman cinerary urn and a portrait of the Emperor Trajan may be singled out.
The exhibition begins with the funerary portraits from Fayum, the famed Egyptian portraits of the dead painted on a thin panel of wood, and Coptic textiles from the Early Christian and Byzantine periods. These are followed by bronze and silver ecclesiastical utensils, bronze lamps, chandeliers, bronze crosses, reliquaries, pectoral cross-reliquaries (enkolpia), procession crosses, small bronze, gilt and stone relief icons, pottery, jewelry, seal stones, Byzantine lead bulls, and Byzantine and Venetian coins. The section on Byzantine icons is particularly important. The 14th century icon of the Last Judgment of the so-called “Macedonian” School and the early 15th century icon of the Dormition of the Virgin, which presages the work of the famous Cretan School, are undoubtedly impressive. The Cretan School is represented by a significant number of 15th and 16th century icons, many of them signed. Specifically, we may mention the icon of the Deesis (Supplication), a work by Angelos, the most important painter of the 15th century, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Virgin Mary “Madre della Consolazione”, a work by Nikolaos Tzafouris, the Humiliation of Christ, and Christ with the Woman from Samaria, possibly also works by the same painter and all dating to the late 15th century. From among the remaining icons, we may note the late 14th century Miracle in Chonae, and the 15th century Tree of Jesse. The only two fragments of frescos in the Museum date to the last quarter of the 15th century. They depict heads from the scene of the Vision of Saint Peter of Alexandria, which once decorated the now-demolished church of Saint Spyridon in Kastoria. Synodical letters written by Patriarchs are on display along the staircase leading to the ground floor.
Here there are exhibits of the Post-Byzantine and modern periods, and of 16th and 17th century icons. There are priests’ vestments and ecclesiastical utensils, triptychs, gilt chalices (Communion cups) –the most important of which is that of the prelate Theoleptos from Naxos, a signed work dating to 1583– boards from the bindings of Gospel books, wood-carved blessing crosses, and clay and wooden stamps. Jewelry of gold, silver, bronze and semi-precious stones coming from various workshops is also presented, as well as silver and gilt folk art clothing accessories from the 18th-19th centuries. Among the icons may be mentioned the Virgin of the Passion with scenes from her life and saints (early 16th c.), the All Saints (late 16th c.), the Martyrdom of Saint Paraskevi by Michael Damaskenos (16th c.), Saint John the Baptist by Emmanuel Lampardos (late 16th-17th c.), Saint Anthony and scenes from his life by Georgios Gavallas (17th c.), and the Entombment of Christ, a work by Emmanuel Tzanes (1679).
The basement exhibition presents religious and secular objects and icons dating from the 17th to the 19th century. The chief exhibits include metalwork like small relief icons, pendants and offerings (tamata), crosses from Ethiopia, minor objects of Russian art, weapons, pendants and stamps and metalwork objects of folk art dating to the modern period. There are also pottery and embroidery, ornaments from Greek folk costumes, and wooden folk art chests. There is an important section on manuscripts and rare editions. Noteworthy among the icons in this gallery are that of the Saints Theodore on horseback, a work by Nikolaos Kallergis (1700), Jacob’s Dream (early 18th c.), the Raising of Lazarus by Ioakeim Lampardos (early 18th c.), a two-zone icon, portraying the Virgin Mary and the equestrian saints George and Demetrios by Demetrios Livas (1674), as well as Saint James the Adelphotheos (Brother of the Lord) and Saint Nicholas with scenes from their life, by Stylianos Romanos (late 17th-early 18th c.). Finally, there is a noteworthy group of 18th and 19th century Russian icons.