Originally the home of Emmanuel Benakis, the Benaki Museum was handed over to Greece by his heirs after his death in 1929. Intended to house the collection of Emmanuel Benakis’ son Antonis, the Benaki Museum opened to the public in 1931. The building was constructed in 1867-1868 by Ioannis Peroglou, a wealthy merchant.
The building then passed into the hands of the businessman Panagios Harokopoulos and then, in 1910, it was sold again to Emmanuel Benakis, who made significant changes to make the house more suitable for his family. Finally, the architect Anastasios Metaxas made the final changes that came into effect when the building was converted into a museum in 1931, which included the extension of its west side.
After Antonis Benakis’ death in 1974, many more objects were added to the museum’s already extensive collection. Some of its most important collections include photographic and historical, neo-Hellenistic, architectural archives and also a Children’s Department that includes an interesting collection of toys and games. Also on display are various works of modern and modernist art by Greek artists. There are also exhibitions of Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenaean art, as well as objects from the Byzantine period.
The museum’s contemporary collection consists of objects of a more religious nature, compared to the earlier collections. This includes wooden paintings, decorative objects, textiles, traditional costumes, jewellery and much more. The religious objects date back to the post-Byzantine era and have been recovered from all over Greece, as well as from Greek communities in other parts of the world.
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