2011-10-19 / Features

Escape From Parga: The Universal Plight Of Refugees

BY CATHERINE TSOUNIS

“The Flight from Parga” (1847) in the National Gallery of Athens by artist Dionysios Tsokos.
“The Flight from Parga” (1847) in the National Gallery of Athens by artist Dionysios Tsokos. Many Americans are descendants of refugees who fled from their homes with few belongings.

Today in Egypt and the Middle East, the Orthodox Christian minorities are leaving on short notice. A masterpiece oil painting of the romantic era is on display in the National Gallery of Athens. “The Flight from Parga” (1847) by Dionysios Tsokos is on display from the E. Koutlidis Foundation collection.

The painting shows a boat navigated by a maritime captain in a turbulent sea. The boat has average passengers including despondent young, middle age and old in Greek dress, with a priest holding an icon and cross. The Universal pain is still felt today.

Pitsa Tsakonas, retired head librarian of the Benaki Museum assisted in further research. “There is another water color painting with a priest holding an icon by an Italian painter named G. Simonetti,” she said “ His name is mentioned on the painting G. Simonetti Venezia. His name does not exist in dictionaries or encyclopedias. The water color is not an original. It is a copy of an oil painting by Lodovico Lipparini who painted it in 1844 with the title ‘Una barca di Geci" (A Greek Boat). Dionysios Tsokos (1820-1862) was a student of Lipparini.
           
September 2011 commemorates almost one hundred years of the first expulsion of Greeks from Tseme, Asia Minor and the 1922 Smyrna catastrophe. Tsokos oil painting is relevant today. In 2011, the faces and dress are different. The despair of losing one’s homeland  and fleeing only with one’s religious faith are universal values.

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