King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
‘A brighter Hellas’: rediscovering Greece in the 19th century

Greece and the Great Exhibition

Portrait of a male wearing a traditional costumeA Palicar dress, embroidered in gold, from Messers Saris and Rengoss of AthensThe Great Exhibition of 1851 opened in the purpose-built Crystal Palace in Hyde Park on 1 May and ran for six months until 31 October. Six million visitors came to view the products of 17,000 exhibitors, with exhibits split into four sections comprising raw materials, machinery, manufactures and fine arts. The exhibition was accompanied by an extensive catalogue, of which the third volume is on display.

Greece was among the 34 nations who accepted an invitation to take part. The relatively new state brought along a modest collection of raw materials and craft products which nevertheless won a number of prizes.

Greek produce included valonia used for tanning, madder-root and kermes (both used as a red dye), currants, figs, tobacco, sponges, honey, soapstone, cimolite, iron ore (used as a pigment), mill-stones, sulphur, emery, carbonate of magnesia, puzzolana or volcanic ash, meerschaum, lithographic stone, various specimens of marble, silk, silk curtains, leather, liquorice juice, a carved wooden cross, marble bas-reliefs and a rich Albanian dress.

The plate on display depicts a gold-embroidered Palicar dress, a traditional male costume, from Messers Saris and Rengoss of Athens, with an indication of the Acropolis in the background. The Greek contribution received some unfavourable reviews in the British press, however, for not adequately representing the full strengths of Greek industry.

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