The Louvre, the second largest art museum in the world, celebrates the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence with an impressive new exhibition entitled “Paris-Athens, the birth of modern Greece, 1675-1919”.
The exhibition, which opens at the end of the month and will run until February 2022, features works by Greek and European artists who “trace the cultural, diplomatic and artistic ties” between France and Greece over the course of of the period.
Exhibition honoring Greek independence at the Louvre
The exhibition was curated by two Athens-based curators, Marina Lambraki Plaka, Director of the newly renovated National Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum in Athens, and Anastasia Lazaridou, Director of Archaeological Museums, Exhibitions and Educational Programs for the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as Jean-Luc Martinez, President and Director of the Louvre, and Débora Guillon.
As noted in a statement from the Louvre, 2021 marks the bicentenary of the start of the Greek War of Independence, and it’s been 200 years since the Parisian museum acquired the famous Venus de Milo.
The statue was found half-buried, in two pieces, on April 8, 1820 when a farmer was digging through the ancient ruins of his field to find stones he needed for his farm in Milos.
The French bought the artwork from the Ottomans, but the local community resisted and tried to stop the French from taking the statue.
The Aphrodite of Milos statue tragically sailed for France on March 1, 1821, just twenty days before modern Greece declared independence from the Ottoman Empire. The statue was offered to King Louis XVIII, who later donated it to the Louvre.
Greece and France, Western Europe have deep ties
European countries, especially France, have a deep diplomatic, historical and cultural connection with Greece.
The influence of ancient Greece was integral to the development of Western European art, culture, politics, and philosophy, and many European and American philhellenes felt compelled to raise awareness of the plight of the Greek people during the war of independence from the Ottomans. .
Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of England’s leading romantic poets, captured the general mood perfectly in his poem “Hellas”. “We are all Greek. Our laws, our literature, our religion (sic), our art have their roots in Greece. But for Greece…we might still have been savages and idolaters…The modern Greek is the descendant of these glorious beings.
French painters like Eugène Delacroix spread knowledge of the events of the Revolution, depicting the horrors of war in order to win Greek support among the French.
Delacroix often depicted scenes from the Greek War of Independence, including his 1826 “Greece on the Ruins of Messolonghi” and his harrowing work “Massacre at Chios”, completed in 1824.
The English poet Lord Byron, whom Delacroix greatly admired, even took up arms himself to fight alongside the Greeks during the war.