Athens' Benaki Museum presents the exhibition Rituals of Hospitality: Ornamented Trays of the 19th Century in Greece and Turkey until November 17th. The exhibition, which is scheduled to be presented also in Constantinople, includes a collection of interesting 19th century decorative objects: painted trays which were produced during the last period of the japanning technique in Europe, a technique which imitates the popular lacquer technique of the Far East.King Otto and Queen Amalia of Greece — Photo courtesy of Benaki Museum
These objects are extremely popular with collectors and can be found in many private collections in Greece and Turkey. The serving of coffee or sweet preserves was an important ritual in everyday life in the Ottoman empire and in the newly founded kingdom of Greece, and these objects, which have not been studied enough, are evidence of the complex social and cultural history of their age. The exhibition presents these objects as fragments of the material culture of an age of the past. By placing the trays in the wider social and cultural context as well as the artistic and historical environment of which they are the product, one can look beyond the objects themselves and embrace this fascinating period. The significance of the trays is recognized as it's understood that the period was characterized by deep social and political changes, the decline of handmade objects and the beginning of mass production and industrialization. Napoleon III in military dress — Photo courtesy of Benaki Museum
The trays depict portraits of famous personages or idealized female forms, urban landscapes, still lifes with flowers and fruit, dreamlike scenes with elaborate decorative frames and many decorative and practical objects (such as tobacco boxes, porcelain plates and cups and hookah), bringing to life the atmosphere of the period.