Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985) Gens d'Hydra, 1979 55 x 45 cm.
Lot 18AR
Nikos Engonopoulos
(Greek, 1910-1985)
Gens d'Hydra, 1979 55 x 45 cm.
Sold for £50,000 (US$ 82,887) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Gens d'Hydra, 1979
signed in Greek and dated '1979' (lower right)
oil on canvas
55 x 45 cm.

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Private collection, Athens.

    LITERATURE:
    K. Perpinioti-Agazir, Nikos Engonopoulos, Son Univers Pictural, exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonée, Benaki Museum, Athens 2007, no. 1092, p. 518 (illustrated).


    Imbued with a genuine and deep-felt sense of Greekness, a Hydriote couple dressed in traditional local costumes stands proudly in the loggia1 of the Tombazis mansion, one of the island's most famed architectural landmarks. Designed by Italian architects in the early 1800s, this fortress-like building, which today houses an annex of the Athens School of Fine Arts, is perched on a steep hill overlooking Hydra's harbour with its amphitheatrically built houses clearly delineated in the lucid background. Note the loggia's diligently rendered s-shaped balustrade -a signature feature of the Tombazis mansion, which dominates the middleground, underlining Engonopoulos's life-long fascination with Greek architecture. Everything, even the distant hills and the passing clouds, are conceived on a human scale framing and at the same accentuating human activity in an archetypally Greek environment.

    The male figure, with his characteristic blue island vraka (breeches), matching vest and red fez, having belted on his pistol and holding a brass nautical spyglass, resembles the emblematic full size portrait of admiral Andreas Miaoulis aboard the Kos, painted in 1824 by Peter von Hess, and echoes Engonopoulos's Miaoulis from 1942. A legendary hero of the Greek War of Independence, Miaoulis was a wealthy, well-travelled Hydriote who spent the fortune he had made from his wheat-shipping business in the cause of Greece, setting a high example of indefatigable patriotism and continuing the island's long seafaring tradition that persists to the present day in many prominent Greek shipping families.2 Next to him stands a woman in a typical Hydriote costume consisting of a headpiece bound around the neck, a long-sleeved silk shirt and a pleated green skirt with a red silk scarf tied around the waist.3. Apart from affording Engonopoulos the opportunity to render the female form, which remained a constant source of inspiration throughout his career, the portrait of the maiden is also a tribute to Athanasoula Voulgari, the artist's great-grandmother from his mother's side who hailed from the island of Hydra. Both figures are captured in striking Byzantine icon-like colours accentuated by the typically Hydriote chequered tilework, reflecting the artist's attitude towards painting, both as a long and rich tradition to draw from, as well as an ideal vehicle to probe into the inner world of Greekness.

    1. A roofed open gallery supported by columns.
    2. See D. Howarth, The Greek Adventure, Collins editions, London 1976, pp. 41-42.
    3. See Greek Costumes [in Greek], National Historic Museum Collection, Athens 1993, pp. 8-11.
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