Greece was one of the first countries to announce its intention to take part officially in the Paris Universal Exhibition. The Greek Government and people have shown the same eagerness and solicitude to have Greece worthily represented. The sympathies of the Greek people for France have long been known. The Hellenic Chamber has therefore unanimously voted a credit of 200,000 francs. For its part, the Greek government has undertaken to have all the products sent to Paris by Greek exhibitors transported to Marseilles free of charge on state transport.
Moreover, a very particular circumstance facilitated the participation of Greece in the Paris Exhibition. A few months ago, the city of Athens organised a national exhibition, known as the Olympic Exhibition. This exhibition was very successful and showed the astonishing progress made in recent years by Greek national industry. The Committee of this exhibition, which included among its members the commercial leaders of Greece, had the idea of making a meticulous selection of the objects exhibited in Athens and sending them to Paris. In addition, the Committee, wishing to show its sympathy for the Paris Exhibition, granted a subsidy of 100,000 francs for the installation costs of the Greek section, which consequently had at its disposal a sum of 300,000 francs.
The Greek section, which covers an area of 600 square metres, is located on the Avenue Suffren side. The façade of the section is 35 metres long and 12 metres high.
The architect, Mr. Sauffroy, has happily drawn inspiration for this façade from the traditions of ancient Greek art; but on the two walls that extend to the right and left of the main entrance, he has artistically represented ancient Greece and modern Greece. On one side he has painted the Acropolis, on the other the factories of the Laurium. The same idea is reflected in the interior decoration of the section. On a neutral background, the names of the four most important cities of ancient Greece are inscribed on one side: Athens, Corinth, Sparta and Thebes; on the other, the names of the four most important cities of modern Greece: Piraeus, Syracuse, Corfu and Patras. Beautiful carpets adorn the walls of the hall.
The Greek products exhibited at the Champ de Mars are quite numerous: there are about 1050 exhibitors, 60 of whom are in the Fine Arts section; we say about, because there are several group exhibitions, and it is impossible to know the number of exhibitors who took part. One of the revelations of the Greek exhibition is some very fine and original silk fabrics. These fabrics are made by women from Athens and Corinth, and all the work is done almost exclusively by hand. There are above all some embroideries, silk on silk, which present an assembly of colours and ornamentation that could serve as models for our most renowned dressmakers. A little further on, we find carpets also woven by hand: they are perhaps a little more faded and softer than the oriental carpets we usually see.
Among the other products, there are some very beautiful samples of marble and minerals which could perhaps contribute to a better knowledge of the riches of the Hellenic peninsula. Among the marble samples, there are some beautiful green marbles; it is from such marbles that the columns of Saint Sophia in Constantinople are made. A rather curious detail: all the Greek marbles exhibited in the Champ de Mars were bought before the opening of the Exhibition by an Englishman.
A little further on we see a curious piece of a red marble veined with blue and black, which was unknown until now. It was found on the island of Chios.
Then come the samples of the products of the Laurium mines and a huge block of lead and silver sulphide. A lot of dried fruit, of course, and some of those wines that the Greeks pride themselves on.
But the objects of which the Greek commissioners are most proud, and with good reason, are first of all graphic tables representing in a clear manner the immense progress made by the kingdom in the last ten years, progress which extends to all branches of industry and commerce.
Then there are photographs which will be of the greatest interest to all those who have a sense of beauty: these are the photographs of the statues found a few months ago under the Acropolis and which are reproduced here for the first time. They predate Pericles by a long way and show undeniable signs of polychrome ornamentation. They will therefore serve to put an end to a long-standing discussion among archaeologists. Another peculiarity of these statues is that they show that the corset was not unknown at the time they were made: the waist is arched, the breasts are raised, and there is even a certain deformity that makes the sculptors despair in their models of today.
In short, the Greek section shows a remarkable effort for such a small country, which is obviously in the process of transforming its tools and industry.
Given its natural wealth, Greece can have faith in the future.
© Guide Bleu du Figaro et du Petit Journal 1889