Yiannis Moralis Masterwork Leads Strong Bonhams Greek Sale

A monumental work by the Greek painter Yiannis Moralis, Composition, leads Bonhams live behind closed doors sale on Thursday 28 May. It is estimated at £280,000-350,000.

The disciplined line and pure form of Composition, which dates from 1960, is reminiscent of architectural fragments from an ancient Greek temple. Deploying a perfectly balanced compositional scheme, Moralis (1916-2009) evokes a world of poetic images that hark back to the archetypal universe of an Ionian frieze.

Bonhams Greek Art Specialist, Anastasia Orfanidou said, "In a strong sale, Yiannis Moralis's Composition stands out. One of the most striking works by the artist ever to appear at auction, it pays homage to the cultural values of ancient Greece while paving the way for a new direction in the visual language of modern Greek art. At the time he painted Composition, Moralis was involved with architecture and interior design, so it occupies an important place in his oeuvre."

The sale also features a homage to one of the central figures of the Greek War of Independence of 1821, the bicentennial of which falls next year. The Hero George Karaiskakis in battle with Kioutachi by Theofilos Hadjimichael (1871-1934) is estimated at £70,000-100,000.

Portrayed on horseback and followed by prominent chieftains, Georgios Karaiskakis, commander-in-chief of Greek forces in eastern Greece, chases the Turk Reshid Mehmed Pasha (known to the Greeks as Kioutachi) who had laid siege to the Acropolis of Athens in 1826. The war lasted until 1830. Although the Parthenon was of little strategic importance, it had a strong emotional and symbolic value for the Greeks and the philhellenic movement in Europe, and is depicted in ruins in the upper right section of the painting.

In the work, Hadjimichael – who in 1897 was himself involved in a war against the Ottoman Empire – draws on the visual language and widely understood conventions of Byzantine icon painting. He also looks to Archaic Greek vase painting in the linear arrangement of the warriors, and the symmetry and rhythm of the composition.

Other highlights include:

Terrace Plant by Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika (1906-1994). This luminous and cheerful painting illustrates Ghika's ability to filter the world around him through his rich imagination and transform an ordinary terrace plant into an expression of the enthusiasm sparked in him by nature. In Ghika's own words: "I tried to evoke the whispering of leaves, the buzz of insects, the movements of tree branches, the breathing of the juices, the swirling of petals. Painted in 1965, the work is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

Clay Vase with Flowers by Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989). The artist once wrote, "Whether I paint men or flowers, I must reveal the divine spirit that lies within them. He could have been referring to this 1966 work which speaks to the viewer in a lyrical idiom of quietude, contentment and the joie de vivre. Estimate: £40,00-60,000.

Soubrette arrosant des fleurs by Théodore Ralli (Greek, 1852-1909). This charming work has been in the artist's family since it was painted in 1876. It was extensively exhibited – at the 1876 Salon des Artistes Vivants, the 1876 Liverpool Autumn Exhibition and the 1878 Paris Exposition Universelle – but then entered the family collection and has been rarely seen since. Estimate: £25,000-35,000.

The sale will be a live 'behind-closed-doors' auction. An auctioneer will be present on the rostrum, and bids will be accepted in the following formats: online, on the phone, or by leaving an absentee bid. All bidding will be done remotely in accordance with the latest government guidelines. The works will be available to view before the auction but strictly by appointment only.

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