Powerfully Symbolic Tsarouchis Masterpiece leads Bonhams Greek Sale in London

A powerfully symbolic work, Soldier Dancing the Zeibekiko, by one of the greatest Greek painters of the 20th century, Yiannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989), leads Bonhams Greek Sale in London on Wednesday, 13 November. It is estimated at £250,000-350,000 (€280,000-400,000).

The origins of the dance can be traced back to the late 17th century, and the name derives from the Zeybeks, an irregular militia that inhabited the Aegean region of the Ottoman Empire. The zeibekiko is always performed by men, usually dancing alone. Although it has traditional, almost ritualistic, movements, there are no formal steps; each performance is highly personal to the dancer. For Tsarouchis, the zeibekiko represented the unfulfilled desires and frustrations of young men at the margins of life, and he often chose to depict it danced by Greek sailors and soldiers.

Bonhams Greek Art specialist, Anastasia Orfanidou, said, "Tsarouchis was an excellent dancer himself. He understood how young men found escape from the struggles and drudgery of everyday life in the improvisation and abandon of the zeibekiko. He didn't use models for his zeibekiko paintings so the figures became symbolic of what he saw as the struggle between life and death."

Soldier Dancing, a further work by Tsarouchis on a similar theme is also offered in the sale estimated at £40,000-60,000 (€45,000-68,000).

Other highlights include:

Full Moon M by Yiannis Moralis (1916-2009). Estimate: £200,000-300,000 (€230,000-340,000). A superb example of advanced geometric abstraction, Full Moon M is distinguished by solid compositional structure, purity of form, harmonious proportions and dynamic rhythm of flowing curvilinear themes and interlocking patterns. True to his classical Greek heritage and yet utilizing a formal vocabulary perfectly balanced to the scale of contemporary sensitivity, Moralis achieved the modern realization of a classical ideal, the discovery of a universal measure for logos and pathos.

Orpheus and Calypso by Constantinos Parthenis (1878-1967). Estimate: £70,000-100,000 (€80,000-110,000). One of the finest works by Parthenis ever to come to auction, Orpheus and Calypso – which was once in the famous art collection of Spyros Loverdos – reveals the painter's fascination with allegorical compositions and symbolist personifications. Inspired by the poetic atmosphere of the symbolist era, Parthenis created a mesmerizing allegorical work in which the two mythological figures become synonymous with the idea of music as a lofty symbol of universal order, harmony and peace.

The sale also offers two important Orientalist works by Greek artists.

Zeybek by Nikiforos Lytras (1832-1904). Estimate: £80,000-120,000 (€91,000-140,000). Painted in around 1873, Zeybek is an icon of nineteenth century Greek art by the undisputed founder of Greek genre painting. It is a work of remarkable expressive power wrought into a highly evocative image of quiet monumentality that perfectly captures the commanding presence of the formidable young sitter. The Zeybeks were notorious for their fierce resistance against any measure to abolish their distinctive dress. Their costume, therefore, represented a strong element of regional native culture, eventually coming to signify an itinerant existence that defied formality and protocol.

Young Girl in the Hamam by Théodore Ralli (1852-1909). Estimate: £40,000-60,000 (€45,000-68,000). Painted in 1887, the work most probably depicts a harem girl or a Cairene almeh (a female entertainer who specialized in dance). For harem women, the hamam – or Turkish Bath – was an all-consuming passion and a luxurious pastime, offering them a chance, not only to wash and purify, but also to go out into the world. The dean of Greek orientalist painters, Ralli trained under the Orientalist master Jean-Léon Gérôme, who himself had made four images of Egyptian almehs 15 years earlier, in 1872-73.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelry. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.


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