Heart of a Benefactor 

The Benaki Museum in Athens: Legacy, Collections and Strategies for the Future

Benaki (7)

Stem cup; blue-and-white porcelain; Jiangxi, Jingdezhen, Ming dynasty, 15–16th century CE; mounted in silver in the Ottoman Empire, 18th century CE; served as incense container at a Greek Orthodox church; Benaki Museum of Greek Culture 33965.

Benaki (2)

Gold earring with glass-paste vase-shaped pendant decorated with filigree and granulation; from the 'Thessaly Treasure,' 3rd-2nd century BCE; Benaki Museum of Greek Culture 1557.

Benaki (4)

Fragment of an embroidered bed valance; Greece, Ioannina, 18th century CE; donated by Damianos Kyriazis, 11230.

Benaki (9)

Jar, porcelain painted in underglaze cobalt blue; China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen, Ming dynasty, mid-15th century CE; donated by George Eumorfopoulos, 2517.

Benaki (5)

Dish with flower motifs in underglaze colours; Turkey, Iznik, mid-16th century CE; Benaki Museum of Islamic Art 1.

Benaki (3)

Funerary portrait; encaustic on linen; Egypt, Antinoopolis, second quarter of 3rd century CE; Benaki Museum of Greek Culture 6878.

Benaki (1)

Antonis Benakis (1873-1954), founder of the Benaki Museum

Benaki (6)

Reception room with inlaid marble floor and fountain; Cairo, Egypt, 17th century CE; Benaki Museum of Islamic Art 10836, 10840.


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Dr George Manginis will introduce the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece, its history, collections and development. His special focus will be on the founder, Antonis Benakis, his important Islamic art collection, and the consistent growth of the institution into a network of museums and archives housing some 120,000 artworks from the Paleolithic era to today and no fewer than 200,000 volumes in what is recognized as Greece’s largest museum library. Besides Antonis Benakis, George Eumorfopoulos became a major donor to the museum and his Chinese ceramics collection counts among the many treasures of the Benaki Museum since. The building of the museum’s collection and the curatorial and outreach work achieved will be the basis for Dr Manginis’ explanation of the Benaki’s international outlook and vision for the future.

About the speaker

George Manginis studied archaeology and history of art at the University of Athens and at SOAS / University of London, where he was awarded a PhD on the history of Mount Sinai, Egypt. He has taught history of Byzantine art, of Islamic art, and of Chinese art at institutions including SOAS, Courtauld Institute, University of Edinburgh, Institute of Ismaili Studies, The Aga Khan University, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and Benaki Museum. Besides excavating in Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, he has worked in the Hellenic Children's Museum as collections manager and director of resource centre, in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia, London as archivist and curator, in the Archaeological Museum of Ioannina as exhibition text supervisor and in various United Kingdom museums as development consultant. In 2013 he was a Stanley J. Seeger Fellow at Princeton University. His publications include scholarly articles on Cypriot prehistory, Islamic art and architecture, Sinai studies, Chinese ceramics, European decorative arts and the Greek and Armenian diasporas, and two books: Mount Sinai: A History of Travellers and Pilgrims (2016) China Rediscovered: The Benaki Museum Collection of Chinese Ceramics (2016). He joined the Benaki Museum in 2017 where he is now Academic Director.