In 2021, Greece will celebrate the bicentenary of its independence, and it was also 200 years ago, in 1821, that the Venus de Milo entered the Louvre collections. The exhibition traces the cultural, diplomatic and artistic links between Greece and France in the 19th century, and shows how European perceptions of Greece changed with the rediscovery of Greek antiquity.
The triumphant tales of Alexander the Great's conquests, the wonder of its arts and classical sculpture inspired by Roman marbles, and the victory of the Byzantine Empire are all associated with it. Greece bequeathed some of its collections to the Louvre, including the Venus of Milo, the Victory of Samothrace and the pediments of the Parthenon in Pentelic marble. Nevertheless, our understanding of the contemporary era remains somewhat obscure: the exhibition lifts the veil.
Two centuries ago, the Greek people rebelled against the Ottoman rule established after the fall of Constantinople in a popular revolt that gave birth to a new Balkan state with arbitrary borders. It also had to give itself a national identity. Modern Greece was born. Liberated in 1829, the country made Athens its capital in 1834. Influenced by the presence of Germany and France in its lands, it turned to the origins of European neoclassicism to build its cultural identity. It inaugurated a new era: freed from the clutches of the East, the country entered its new golden age and enriched the European heritage with vast campaigns of archaeological excavations that suddenly and admirably restored the historiography and history of art. Delphi, Delos and the Acropolis reveal a hitherto unknown treasure trove of breathtaking beauty.
The exhibition pays homage to the greatness of our civilisation, which stands today as the sublime jewel of these lands at the crossroads of the worlds.