Colorful and ornate tapestries, costumes, woodcarvings, jewelry boxes, and paintings adorn the Museum of Greek Folk Art in Athens. Displaying a number of pieces from various parts of Greece, this house of art features unique items straight out of history.
Founded in 1918 by poet Georgios Drosinis, archeologist G. Kourouniotis, and a group of Athenian intellectuals of the era, the institution was first established under the name of “Museum of Greek Handicrafts,” then “National Museum of Decorative Arts” in 1923, and finally took its present name in 1959. The museum’s collection was housed in the Tzistaraki Mosque in Monastiraki Square until 1973 and was transferred to Kydathinaion 17 in Plaka, where is stands today.
So what’s there to see at this rich museum during your visit to wonderful historical Athens? Much. There is the diverse collection of traditional island and mainland region attire. Learn about the specific colors, ornamentation, and types of dress worn by the Greeks of yesteryear throughout the country. From festive to everyday, elite to peasant, male and female, adult and child attire…all sorts of outerwear can be examined up close here. You’ll definitely be amazed at the intricacies of some of these pieces! Shaped by each area’s special customs and culture, these garments represent authentic Greek life.
Next up is the embroidery collection, featuring handmade decorative pieces some of us may be lucky enough to have passed down to us from our very own grandmothers. Classed into three main groups depending on the techniques used to create them, embroidery was fashioned by traced design, counted stitch, and gold or silver silk cord. Moving on, the museum’s collection of woven items is geometrical, colorful, and artistic. Many pieces even tell a story of their own in the form of woven images. The silverware and metalware collection includes a number of ecclesiastical and secular vases, plates, pieces of jewelry, and ornaments used to accompany attire.
The woodcarving section includes handcrafted furniture, house décor, ship figure heads, shepherd crooks and other items carved from cypress, mulberry, wild olive, walnut, and other types of wood. The ceramics section, aside from traditional pottery, features clay dolls, figurines, painted vases, decorative wall tiles, and more. The museum’s stone carving collection includes grave monuments and decorative pieces from the famous workshops of Tinos island in the Cyclades.
Heading over to the paintings collection, you will see a number of historical pieces created by come of Greece’s most popular artists depicting Greek life in various eras. You will see up close the two-dimensional art of Theophilos Hatzimichail (1868-1934), whose pieces were inspired by Greek war heroes, European post cards, and local folklore. The museum’s shadow theater section celebrates theatrical art and Karagiozis, the famous puppet representing the typical Greek. Also highlighted in the museum’s collection are masquerades and primitive attire with ancient origins worn during festivals. The Coptic art display features a total of 150 decorative textiles from Egyptian antiquity. And last but not least, in the tools of Greek folk art section, you will find the items used to create the likes of some of the historical art and costumes housed in the museum.