Benjamin Mary, the first Belgian Ambassador in Greece, arrived in Athens in 1839. The Belgian Ambassador was possessed by the well-known stereotypes that motivated all foreigners who came to Greece at that time to find the connection with ancient Greece.
Later on, he realised that the Revolution of 1821 was more important, since it gave flesh and blood to the newly formed, Hellenic State. Besides, he was present at a time when Otto's power and the rivalry of the three forces for influence in Greece (through the domestic political forces) were in full swing.
This thought, prompted him to capture figures he met at the time. He sketched the portraits of the prominent leaders of the National Assembly of 1843-1844, as well as special moments with spectators and every day people. In some cases, he even prompted the depicted personas to sign their portraits, in order to preserve an important historical testimony.
Thanks to his talent, we can see today some of the most important faces of the Greek War of Independence and the protagonists of that era.
To mark the 200-year Anniversary of the Greek Revolution, the portraits are published for the first time in the book "History has a face - Figures of 1821 in Otto's Greece by the Belgian diplomat Benjamin Mary” (Ἡ Ἱστορία ἔχει πρόσωπο – Μορφὲς τοῦ 1821 στὴν Ἑλλάδα τοῦ Ὄθωνα ἀπὸ τὸν βέλγο διπλωμάτη Benjamin Mary), a co-publication by the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, and the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece. The book presents 125 unpublished drawings with 320 unique figures from the Belgian Ambassador’s long-lost sketching album, which was bought by Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, at a London auction.
On the occasion of the 200th Anniversary in March, the Ambassador of Greece to Belgium, Mr. Dionysios Kalambrezos, met with the Director of the Office of the King of Belgium, Mr. Vincent Houssiau, with whom they discussed bilateral issues. Ambassador Kalambrezos offered as a gift to King Philip of Belgium, the aforementioned publication.
Sources: kathimerini.gr (Margarita Pournara), "History has a face - Figures of 1821 in Otto's Greece by the Belgian diplomat Benjamin Mary” (virtual publication) co-published by the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation and the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece.