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Art & Literature

A new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, presents more than 60 superb artworks of the Byzantine era, from the 4th to the 15th centuries. Organized by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports of Athens, Greece, with the collaboration of the Benaki Museum, Athens, and originally exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the exhibition includes major artistic holdings from Greece consisting of mosaics, sculptures, manuscripts, luxury glass, silver, personal adornments, liturgical textiles, icons, and wall paintings. About one third of the original exhibition will be presented in the Art Institute’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art from September 27, 2014, through February 15, 2015.

For more than 1,000 years, Greece was part of the vast Byzantine Empire, established in 330 A.D. by the emperor Constantine the Great, who moved the capital of the Roman Empire east to a small town named Byzantium in modern-day Turkey. Renamed for him and transformed into Constantinople, Byzantium would come to represent an empire of splendor and power that endured for more than a millennium. Greek replaced Latin as the official language, and Greece itself was home to important centers of theology, scholarship, and artistic production—as evidenced by the luxurious manuscripts displayed in the exhibition. “When we opened the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, we were given the opportunity to host great exhibitions alongside our collection of ancient and Byzantine art,” said Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute. The first exhibition in the Jaharis Galleries was Late Roman and Early Byzantine Treasures from the British Museum in 2012 that featured artworks from the 4th-7th centuries. “Through our collaborations with the organizing institutions of Heaven and Earth, we are fortunate to explore the next chapter of Byzantine art history as we welcome singular and beautiful artworks—many of which have never been shown outside of Greece—that span the history of this powerful empire.”

Heaven and Earth explores the rich legacy of the Byzantine Empire through five main themes: the transition from the Classical to the Byzantine world, spiritual life, intellectual life, the pleasures of life, and cultural exchange in the waning years of the empire in the 15th century. The exhibition opens with the Head of Aphrodite, a Roman marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Aphrodite that had later been altered with a cross carved on her forehead, presumably to Christianize it or reuse it as an image of a saint. From its beginning in the 4th century the Byzantine Empire would embrace its Classical origins while forging a new spiritual aesthetic to outfit the ceremonies and interior of the Christian church. Icons of holy persons, saints, important theologians, and sacred events were painted to be channels for the devoted to the heavenly realm while mosaics and silks embroidered with gold and silver reflected the glimmering candle light of the church. Jewelry, resplendent with precious and semi-precious gems—including a personalized engagement ring—perfume flasks, and silver and ceramic dinnerware that reveal the spectacle of the banquet, all allow visitors a glimpse into the individual lives of the Byzantines.

“Heaven and Earth represents a truly international effort,” said Karen Manchester, Chair and Curator of Ancient Art in the Art Institute's Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art. “This is our first collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Benaki Museum and it has allowed the Art Institute the remarkable opportunity to display priceless treasures from Greece.”

Additionally, the Art Institute will be the sole U.S. venue for the 14th-century Icon of Saint Prokopios. Painted in the last century of the Byzantine Empire during the Ottoman invasions of northern Greece, this icon represents the youthful saint, suited in armor draped with a vivid red mantle, who was martyred over a millennia before in the 4th century during the beginning years of the Byzantine era. The exhibition catalogue, available in the museum gift shop, features this artwork on the cover.

Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections was organized by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, Athens, with the collaboration of the Benaki Museum, Athens, and in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Major funding for Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections has been provided by the Jaharis Family Foundation, Inc. Additional support has been provided by the Stratis family, Charlotte Vern Olson, and Karen and Walter Alexander.
The exhibition’s US tour is made possible through OPAP S.A.’s major funding. Financial support is also provided by the A. G. Leventis Foundation.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Images: Icon of Christ Pantokrator, late 14th century. Byzantine; Thessaloniki. Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki.
Head of Aphrodite, 1st century A.D. Byzantine; Greece, probably Athens. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Pendant with Christ Pantokrator, rock crystal: 11th century, mount: 16th century. Byzantine, probably Constantinople. Benaki Museum, Athens.
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Special Events:

Lectures: To celebrate the opening of Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, Jenny Albani, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, Greece, and Anastasia Drandaki, Benaki Museum, Athens, provide overviews of Byzantine culture and the exhibition.
Reservations recommended. To register, please call 312-443-3680.
September 27, 2014
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission; Reservations recommended

Gallery Talk: Exhibition Overview
Explore the array of Byzantine icons, silks, mosaics, and other stupendous loans in the exhibition Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections,
October 10, 2014
Meet in Griffin Court
Free with museum admission

Lecture: Maniera Greca in the West, Maniera Latina in the Byzantine East – Piety, Politics, and Painting in the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Centuries
In this lecture featuring artworks from Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, Anastasia Drandaki, Curator of the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection, Benaki Museum, Athens and co-curator of the exhibition will focus on unexplored aspects of the dialogue between Byzantine and western European art, particularly Italian painting of the period.
Sponsored by the Classical Art Society
October 23, 2014
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission

Performance: “Fall of Constantinople” Cappella Romana.
Join the renowned early music ensemble Cappella Romana and explore the musical legacy of the Byzantine empire with ‘The Fall of Constantinople.” Majestic ceremonies for the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, triumphant assertions of superiority by Westerners, and fervent prayers for the healing of political and religious divisions are followed by two poignant laments for the Fall of Constantinople.
November 16, 2014
Fullerton Hall
This will be a ticketed event.


COURTESY: Art Institute of Chicago


Wednesday, 03 September 2014 13:00

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Island

Written by

The Last Island

By: David Hogan

ISBN: 978-0-9926552-1-1

Publisher: Betimes Books


Novel Explores Themes of Redemption, Escape, Love, Our Flawed Nature


Playwright David Hogan offers an intriguing novel, “The Last Island,” based on a fictional Greek island in the Sporades. The Bostonian who lived in Athens for many years and has spent much time on the island of Skopelos, examines the human condition, our flawed nature and more.


                There, he witnessed the island change from a traditional fishing society into a modern, tourist-based economy.


               “I wanted to capture something of that transition, what was lost, what was gained and the effect it had on the people, the animals, the island itself.”

                “During that time, I was alternately mystified, amused, excited, frustrated, and delighted, as I would have been anywhere else, but in Greece I think those emotions were heightened.  I can remember moments when I was swimming in the Aegean at sunset or standing on a mountaintop at dawn where the history and urgency and majesty of the place would course through me. At times, I can still feel it.”


 Young World Travelers and the Magical Crystal Globe

By: Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos

Illustrations by Rick Sanders

Publisher:  The Word Verve

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-941251-10-2

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-941251-11-9

Published: May 2014


First Book in Series Takes Kids on Fun, Educational Travel Adventures

 CHICAGO--Many parents have watched Disney’s “Little Einsteins” with their kids, immersing them in travel adventures around the world. Author Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos loved to watch the show with her daughter, Katerina.  As Katerina grew older, however, it was time for something more advanced.

                 “There was nothing out there,” Demetra revealed. “My creative juices began to flow, and the idea sprang from there.”

                 She spoke to an attorney at Disney, and was quickly advised that anything that she shared with them could be used.

                 “Immediately, I hung up. I knew I could do something with this idea.”

Wednesday, 02 July 2014 08:21

Nicholas Gage in Chicago

Written by

CHICAGO---Award-winning author and investigative reporter Nicholas Gage appeared at the National Hellenic Museum on June 13. At the event, produced in partnership with the National Hellenic Society, Gage chronicled his “Writer’s Odyssey.” He spoke about his childhood in Greece, coming to America to a father he’d never met, how he became a writer, and more. It was an emotional moment for Gage, speaking about his mother, Eleni, whose story is recounted in the book, Eleni, which was subsequently adapted for the big screen. He described how he honed his journalistic and investigative skills to return to Greece to learn his mother’s story. Due its immensely personal nature, it took time to gather his courage to begin the investigation. He also revealed that he had to summon even more courage to actually put pen to paper. Gage spoke about some 7000-plus letters he received from people who’d read the book, explaining how it had touched them.

The author spoke about his other work, including the book, Greek Fire, about Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas. He said he was often asked, “because he was Greek,” if he’d met the pair. He reported that he’d met Onassis twice, but “sadly” not Callas.  In researching the story, he learned that much that had been written about the couple to that point was untrue.

Another memoir is in the works, this time recounting his years as an investigative reporter.

A rooftop reception followed the event. An internationally renowned writer, Nicholas Gage is engaging, yet humble. He’s simply a man with stories to tell and a passion for his heritage.

Tuesday, 03 June 2014 20:37

Q&A with Nicholas Gage

Written by

This week, we caught up with award-winning reporter, author, producer and philanthropist

Nicholas Gage

The author spoke to us about becoming a writer, about his philanthropic endeavors, apathy among younger Greek Americans, and more. Mr. Gage will appear at the National Hellenic Musuem in Chicago on June 13.


Maria A. Karamitsos: When did you decide to become a writer and why?

Nicholas Gage: When a teacher in the seventh grade noticed that I had writing ability and encouraged me, even though I was still struggling with the English language. I knew I wanted to be a reporter and writer to find out what happened to my mother and tell her story. I studied journalism in college and graduate school and won a prize for the best published writing by a college student, which was presented by President John F. Kennedy at the White House in May of 1963, a big thrill for an immigrant kid. 

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 12:43

Mystery Code in Rare Copy of 'Odyssey' Cracked!

Written by
An Italian computer engineer has solved the riddle of some mysterious handwritten notations found in the margins of 1504 Venetian edition of Homer’s Odyssey. Daniele Metilli has won a $1,000 prize offered through the University of Chicago Library by collector M.C. Lang, who had donated the book to the University of Chicago Library in 2007! The engineer who identified the mystery script as a system of shorthand invented by Frenchman Jean Coulon de Thévénot in the late 18th century, said that “We spent days and nights trying to solve difficult word puzzles. We read Greek, we wrote French. We rediscovered the beauty of the Odyssey. We approached the contest looking for an adventure, and we got it. It was a wonderful experience and we could not be more happy!”
COURTESY: Greek News Agenda 
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 13:57

Seeking the Ancient Kallos

Written by

The exhibit – Seeking the Ancient Kallos (Beauty) – by American fine art photographer J. Joshua Garrick made history as the first exhibition in the 125-year history of the National Archaeological Museum of Greece to be created and presented by a non-Greek Artist. The exhibit is now in America and is hosted by the Consulate General of Greece in New York City. The exhibit is curated by art historian Iris Kritikou and designed by Marios Voutsinas. The exhibit, which runs through May 20 is free and open to the public. Phone (212) 988-5500.


Seeking Ancient "Kallos"

J. Joshua Garrick is an acclaimed photographer from Orlando, Florida, who loves Greece "so completely, I hope it shows in my work… and it does." His unique exhibition “Seeking the Ancient Kallos” opened in New York on April 10, hosted at the Consulate General of Greece and it runs through to May 2. But this is no ordinary exhibition.
On September 12, 2013, Garrick made art history as the first American to present this same exhibition of his work - 95 of his black-and-white photographs of landmark places and statues from ancient Greece - at the National Archaeological Museum, in its 125-year history.

He had climbed up restoration scaffolding to the roof, where he balanced without a tripod in a precarious position to get some if his remarkable images. Many of the statues are housed in the museum itself, the largest in Greece and renowned for its antiquities.

Ancient Greece is the main theme of his work and the country has honored him with unprecedented access to famous monuments and museums. The exhibition aims to highlight ancient Greek culture as the birthplace of the western arts and the inseparable relationship of modern Greece with Europe. In Garrick’s own words: "It is my honor to be a constant ‘student’ of the Classical era of Ancient Greece."
COURTESY: Greek News Agenda 

Returning to the Triune God: Reflections on the Spiritual Life

By: Father Demetrios N. Treantafeles, Protopresbyter

Printed by “Melissa”, Asprovalta Thessaloniki

Greek edition published 2011

English version published 2013


Reflections Offer Comfort, Strength, Returning to God 

CHICAGO---Those who know Father Demetrios Treantafeles, now retired after many years of service to the parish of Saint Nectarios in Palatine, Ill., know him to be at once humble, incredibly caring, and always ready to help someone. Father T., as he has become affectionately known, has compiled a volume of his thoughts, observations and fears, and reflects on ever-changing societal conditions, in his book, Returning to the Triune God: Reflections on the Spiritual Life. The book, first published in Greek in 2011, was published in English in 2013.


Sunsets in Oia

By:  Sheila Busteed

Publisher: FriesenPress (Canada)

ISBN: 978-1-4602-2985-9 (Hardcover)

978-1-4602-2986-6 (Paperback)

978-1-4602-2987-3 (eBook)

Released: November 2013


CHICAGO---Escape Chicago’s brutal winter and head to Santorini, if only in your mind, with the new novel by Sheila Busteed, entitled Sunsets in Oia. You’ll be feeling warm and pouring some ouzo in no time.

                The author, who hails from Canada but now calls South Korea home, first visited Santorini while on a cruise in 2008. Oia always captivates, and this time was no exception. Busteed promised herself she’d find a way to return to this magnificent place. Writing a novel proved the perfect way. Santorini would be an ideal setting for an adventure romance story.

              “I can’t think of a more romantic place,” Busteed said. “It felt so natural to have the story take place there.”


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