The Louvre, the second largest art museum in the world, is celebrating the bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence with an impressive new exhibition entitled “Paris-Athens, The Birth of Modern Greece, 1675–1919.”
The show, which opens at the end of the month and will run until February of 2022, features works by Greek and European artists that “trace the cultural, diplomatic and artistic ties” between France and Greece during the period.
Exhibition honoring Greek Independence at the Louvre
The exhibition was organized by two Athens-based curators, Marina Lambraki Plaka, who serves as director of the newly-renovated National Gallery–Alexandros Soutzos Museum in Athens, and Anastasia Lazaridou, who is the director of Archaeological Museums, Exhibitions and Educational Programmes for Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as Jean-Luc Martinez, president-director of the Louvre, and Débora Guillon.
As noted in a statement from the Louvre, 2021 marks the bicentennial of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, and it has been 200 years since the Parisian museum acquired the famed Venus de Milo.
The statue was found half-buried, in two pieces, on April 8, 1820 when a farmer was digging in ancient ruins in his field to find some stones he needed for his farm on Milos.
The French bought the artwork from the Ottomans, but the local community resisted and tried to prevent the French from taking the statue.
The statue of the Aphrodite of Milos tragically sailed for France on March 1, 1821, just twenty days before modern Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The statue was presented to King Louis XVIII, who later offered it to the Louvre.
Greece and France, Western Europe have deep ties
European countries, particularly France, have a deep diplomatic, historic, and cultural connection to Greece.
The influence of Ancient Greece was integral to the development of the art, culture, politics, and philosophy of Western Europe, 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 the major English Romantic poets, perfectly captured the overall mood in his poem “Hellas.” “We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion (sic), our art have their roots in Greece. But for Greece … we might still have been savages and idolators.… The Modern Greek is the descendant of those glorious beings.”
French painters like Eugene Delacroix spread knowledge of the events of the Revolution, depicting the horrors of the war in order to gain support for the Greeks amongst the French.
Delacroix often depicted scenes from the Greek War of Independence, including his 1826 “Greece on the Ruins of Messolonghi” and his heart-wrenching work “Massacre at Chios,” which was completed in 1824.
English poet Lord Byron, whom Delacroix admired very much, even took up arms himself to fight along the Greeks during the war.