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"Loverdos Collection"
From “The World of the Byzantine Museum”, Athens 2004

This group of icons originally belonged to Dionysios P. Loverdos (1878-1934), a banker from Cephalonia. They form one of the largest and finest collections of post-Byzantine religious art in Greece. At the collection's core are the two hundred icons that had been collected by the philologist Alexios Kolyvas (1848-1915) and were purchased after the letter's death by Loverdos who, thanks to his zeal and considerable expense, gradually enriched the original ensemble with additional works of art. In 1930, the collection was housed in his magnificent residence at odos Mavromichali 6, in Athens.

In 1979, the Byzantine Museum undertook, at the request of Loverdos' daughters, the conservation and safekeeping of a large part of the collection. The transfer and handing over of the artworks was effected by the executrix, Mrs Joanna Loverdou-Vasileiadi, and her father's other heirs. Some 660 items were donated to the Museum, including icons, woodcarvings, manuscripts, ecclesiastical vestments and a carved wooden iconostasis. With the consent of Mrs Loverdou-Vasileiadi most of these objects were restored in the Museum's workshops and displayed in February 1980 in a separate two-story building near the Museum. Due to the extension works at the Museum, this important collection has been kept in store, but will soon be on display again in specially designed rooms in the new underground exhibition area.

The core of the collection consists of 470 icons, fine examples of painting by artists from Crete and the Ionian Islands. A considerable number of these are the works of named artists of the 14th-19th centuries. They attest the survival of Byzantine art through the centuries following the fall of Constantinople and reflect the artistic creativity of religious painting in this period. Palaiologan models, new iconographical types, influences from western art, as well as subject matter inspired by western iconography, are all observable in most of the icons in the collection and offer the viewer the opportunity to enrich his or her knowledge of post-Byzantine religious painting.

The earliest icon represents the Deesis (image 1), with scenes from the Twelve Great Feasts. It dates to the early 15th century and recalls Palaiologan models, as handled by Cretan artists. From the same artistic milieu come two more icons of importance in the collection that date from the first half of the 15th century: the Nativity of Christ and the Entry of the Virgin into the Temple. The second bears the signature of Angelos, one of the greatest Cretan painters. The Cretan artists' ability to convey subjects inspired by western iconography is manifest in many pieces in the collection. Typical examples are the Madre della Consolazione, c. 1500 (image 4), and the Ecce Homo of the second half of the 16th century, an icon that represents a fusion of the Byzantine Akra Tapeinosis type and the western Ecce Homo. The signature of the highly talented and prolific icon painter, Michael Damaskenos, who flourished in the second half of the 16th century, appears on the icon of Christ the High Priest, which follows the austere Byzantine tradition.

The collection also contains a considerable number of works by Cretan painters who left their native land after its capture by the Turks (1669) and settled in the Ionian Islands where they went on to produce a vast quantity of paintings. Of especial interest are the Adoration of the Magi by Emmanuel Tzanes (image 9), the Prophet Zacharias by Ilias Moskos, and the tripartite icon with depictions of the Holy Trinity, the Descent into Hell and the Lamentation by Theodore Poulakis (image 10).

Three further works from the 18th century are worthy of special note: the Prophecy of Balaam, the Allegory of the Divine Eucharist, and the Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin by, respectively, Nikolaos Kalergis, Konstantinos Kondarinis and Konstantinos Kondaris, all from the Ionian Islands. They were pupils of the Cretan painters discussed above, and, together with others from the Ionian Islands, kept the Cretan style alive until the end of the 17th and into the 18th century.

Finally, the collection also includes oil paintings, such as the Circumcision of Christ by Panagiotis Doxaras and Christ the Bridegroom (Nymphios) by Nikolaos Doxaras. These belong to the so-called Ionian school that was deeply indebted to Italian art. The principle exponent of this school was Panagiotis Doxaras, who was born in the Mani in 1662 and later moved to the Ionian island of Zante. His handbook On Painting, dated 1726, is based on the principles of Italian painting and lends theoretical support to his artistic inclinations. His work was followed by other artists, such as the Ionian islanders Nikolaos Kantounis and Nikolaos Koutouzis, who did portraits as well as religious paintings that adorned churches in the Ionian Islands, often as replacements for wall paintings.

The works in the Loverdos collection are of special interest not only on account of their high artistic quality, but also because they reflect the collector's personal taste for post-Byzantine painting, particularly icons from the Ionian Islands, his own place of origin. The thematic variety and, in many cases, rarity of subject matter of these works make this collection particularly precious, a unique concession from the Loverdos family to the Museum.