On Friday, 27 September 2019, visitors of the The Hellenic Centre had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion organized by the board of directors of The Panayotis and Effie Michelis Foundation about its newly published book ‘Greece in European Travellers’ Imagery (15th-19th centuries): Identities, alterities, metamorphoses’. Historian, author and broadcaster, Professor Bettany Hughes, coordinated the discussion with the author of the book and art historian, Dr Aphrodite Kouria, and the curator of the Hellenic Parliament Art Collection, Dr Theodoros Koutsogiannis. During the discussion images of the book were displayed in the background.
As it was noted, for many years travel was considered an important way of learning and a vital cultural experience and the traveller who communicated his first-hand experience was of high esteem. Europeans who traveled to Greece from the 15th to the 19th centuries mainly visited ports and islands, which were more accessible than the mainland, depicted wars and described ancient monuments and cities. During the War of Independence, with the philhellenic movement, a romantic approach prevailed. According to Mrs Kouria, in the earlier centuries the goal of travel books was to offer the reader a spectacle of the cities visited with clarity. Travellers often presented a combination of realistic and imaginary views to satisfy their readers, while pictures were often based on the travellers’ sketches and descriptions, with the illustrators improvising to a certain extent. Thus, images are not a realistic representation of Greece at the time, but rather an indication of travellers’ and illustrators’ views on Greece. Especially in the 19th century the personal involvement of the voyager becomes stronger, the subjective and emotional look dominates, with women travellers showing strong empathy towards the people they encounter.
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