221 – Athos in modern art exhibition 2008


GREEK, 1852-1909


signed l.r.
oil on canvas laid down on board

Private Collection, Normandy

The present work is a premiere pensée for Rallis’ painting Refectory in a Greek Monastery of 1885 that was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1886 and the Exposition Universelle of 1889. Rallis most likely painted the present work in situ during a trip to Mount Athos while the Salon version was completed in the artist’s Paris studio. Differences are evident between the two paintings in the architecture and the arrangement of the figures.

In nineteenth century France the circle of patronage was widened enormously by the participation of the growing and newly affluent middle class; for these new connoisseurs the seal of success was the acceptance of an artist’s work for exhibition at the prestigious Salon. The annual Parisian Salon thus became the most important vehicle for artists to gain a reputation and to earn a living. The choice of ‘Church genre’ was a popular one with artists at the time, as it bridged the gap between the established preference for academic history and religious painting of the Salon jury; the new currents in art, which upheld that a painting should reflect the spirit of its age; and the demands for decorative pictures of the buying public. By depicting a contemporary scene within a composition that focused on traditional costumes and religious observances, Rallis imbued Refectory in a Greek Monastery (Mount Athos) with a sense of timelessness and peacefulness, which enhanced its appeal to a public in the midst of coping with the socio-economic changes that rapid industrialisation and urbanisation had brought about.

The present work has been requested for the exhibition Mount Athos in Modern Greek Art organized by the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece in collaboration with The Mount Athos Art Archives on January 2008 in Athens.

Painting is for sale: Sotheby’s 14 november in London.

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