French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis opened an exhibition marking 200 years of Greece’s independence at the Louvre, Paris on Monday.
Mitsotakis, who is visiting France to announce a major, multibillion-euro military deal in Paris on Tuesday involving the acquisition by Greece of at least six French-built warships, hailed the French contribution to the Greek War of Independence.
“Without the contribution of foreign powers, including France, the establishment of the first nation-state on the southeastern tip of Europe would not have been possible,” he said.
He emphasized that France was there from the very beginning of the Greek Revolution.
Mitsotakis in awe over “Massacre of Chios” painting
“We are all moved by the fact that during the revolution, works of art were created for this purpose and sold at auctions to fund the struggle for independence. And I think it is indeed telling that perhaps the most emblematic painting that mobilized public opinion to support the struggle of the Greeks, is ‘The Massacre of Chios’.”
Mitsotakis was referring to the brilliantly evocative painting by the French artist Eugène Delacroix.
The monumental work, exhibited at the Louvre, is more than four meters tall, and shows some of the horror of the wartime destruction visited on the Island of Chios in the Chios massacre. A frieze-like display of suffering Greek people, military might, ornate and colorful costumes, terror, disease and death is shown in front of a scene of widespread desolation on the beautiful Greek island.
Macron: Greece was a culture before it became nation-state
Macron spoke very warmly about France’s relationship with Greece and emphasized, among other things, that “Greece was a culture before it even became a nation-state. That is a heavy burden, but it is something that has inspired us.”
“For France,” he continued, “it was natural that it supports Greece’s struggle for independence, that we support Greece at every turn, because Greece is the heart of culture. From this culture we draw our roots, our imagination, but also our points of reference, be it artistic, philosophical or other.”
Louvre celebrates Greek Independence
The Louvre exhibition, which 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.
It 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 unsuccessfully tried to prevent the French from taking the statue.