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Greek Garb: The Delightful Illustrations of Nicolas Sperling

Nicolas Sperling (1881 - 1940) was an artist active in Egypt, and best known in Greece for his collaboration with Antonis Benakis. A collector of historical artifacts and art, Benakis entrusted the illustration of his publication, Hellenic National Costumes, to Sperling, who came to Greece for this reason. A meticulous illustrator with an eye for detail, Sperling created a number of watercolor paintings, sadly passing away abruptly before completing the collection originally selected. In commemoration of the rich history of traditional Greek costumes, Sperling’s illustrations were featured on a 1972 - 1974 series of Hellas stamps.

As Benaki Museum Department of Modern Greek Culture Curator Xenia Politou notes, "At a time when photography was already widespread, Benakis chose painting as the means of imagery for the album...on one hand, Benaki wanted to add color to the images that would accompany the texts, an element missing from the black and white photographs of the time, but one necessary to translate the true uniqueness of the costumes," she says. "On the other hand, selecting Sperling, Benaki knew he had chosen the artist who could document, with absolute fidelity, the tiniest detail of the embroidery and texture of each fabric."

Prior to his death, Sperling completed a number of watercolor illustrations, of which 111 plates were printed. The public edition of Hellenic National Costumes was limited to 300 copies, of which the American College of Greece in Athens holds No. 292.

_____________________________ WORDS: Portes Magazine ILLUSTRATIONS: Nicolas Sperling


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