The house contains an  extensive collection of more than 60 paintings, hundreds of drawings and prints,  numerous works of art (decorative objects, sculpture) and a good collection of  18th and 19th c. French and Hellenic furniture. The  collection of several thousands of mainly 20th century books is  scattered all over the house. Manuscripts and letters by both the Katakouzenoi  and their famous friends also survive. The collections illustrate life in  Hellas in a way that attracts attention, provides knowledge and encourages  emotional involvement by the visitors.

ο πορτραίτο της Λητώς από τον Marc Chagall καμωμένο με ακουαρέλα και παστέλ είναι ίσως το πιο γνωστό από τα έργα Ευρωπαίων καλλιτεχνών της συλλογής.
Leto’s portrait by Marc Chagall, besides family photographs.

But the collections of the KHM are not the objects, the paintings, the books or the furniture only. They also include its past, the people that lived in and visited it, the words they uttered, their thoughts and dreams, the aura of the lived place. Every object has more than a market value or a particular acquisition or donation record; the reasons  behind its selection and its symbolic power for the inhabitants of the house  are as much part of its life force. To draw another parallel with the Freud  Museum, the antiquities Sigmund Freud collected were immensely important, even  if some of them were recognised as forgeries; he used to assign names to them  and ask for their help on many occasions.

A series of drawings and prints near an Empire daybed. (photo before restoration)

“At that time the  figure [of Athena] occupied pride place in the centre of his writing desk.  Though Athena was the goddess of wisdom and war, she also had the reputation of  coming to the aid of her heroes. Indeed, she became the mascot for the  emigration to England. In his words “We arrived proud and rich under the  protection of Athena,” he wrote to Max Eitingon from England.” (The Freud  Museum, 1998: 81)

If in  traditional museums objects are seen as creations of individuals or cultures,  in house museums they have another level of meaning attached to them, outside  their original contextual horizon. If a tomb figure was meant to represent a  guardian spirit, if a wall painting was meant to be worshipped in a church, it  is not for either protection or worship that these objects were chosen for the  Freud and Katakouzenos houses. There is meaning beyond function, and this is  the spirit of the owner, the intention behind the offering, the volition  suggesting the object emplacement.

Furniture, paintings and decorative objects in the reception rooms of the Katakouzenos house. (photo before restoration)

If a traditional museum groups things by  date, style or artisan, a house museum groups them by life cycle, history, and  biography.  Objects in house museums are pieces of a puzzle, and work together  to form a picture that projects not only the personality of the owner of the  house but his life story as well.

Thanks to the preservation of his house, many  people that had never met Angelos Katakouzenos eventually “got to know” him,  through his wife words and through the objects he surrounded himself with.  The KHM will hopefully continue to introduce these people and their world to an  ever-expanding audience.

G.Gounaropoulos series of four paintings representing four different “kisses” forms one of the most important parts of the KHM collections.

The paintings collection

The Katakouzenos house is full of paintings in  various media, and represents a conclusive cross-section of Hellenic artistic  production from the 1930s to the 1970s.

The series of paintings comprises a set of four mahogany doors specially painted for the Katakouzenoi by their close friend Nikos Chatzekyriakos-Gkikas and many more paintings by the same artist in various media. Further works by Spyros Vasileiou, Giannes Tsarouches, Giorgos Gounaropoulos (all prominent artists of the “1930s generation”) hang all over the house. The watercolour and pastel portrait of Leto by Marc Chagall is perhaps the best work of art by a non-Hellene artist. A pencil drawing (possibly by Degas) and another by Pablo Picasso complement an extensive collection of 19th and 20th century prints. Finally, some family icons of the 17th and 18th centuries were kept in the eikonostasio in one of the bedrooms.

What makes the KHM collection of paintings quite  unique, apart from their undoubted artistic and monetary value, is the way they  were acquisitioned. None of the works was purchased, and indeed most were given by the artists themselves as gifts, tokens of  friendship or gratitude. Even the subject matter is relevant.

Set of four mahogany doors specially painted by the close friend and painter Nikos Chatzekyriakos-Gkikas

The manuscript collection

The manuscript collection mainly includes the correspondence between the Katakouzenoi and their famous friends. These manuscripts illustrate the social and artistic life of Hellas in a unique way and provide rare information.

Letter by N.Chatzekyriakos-Gkikas, undated.

Ο Ανδρέας Εμπειρίκος
The Greek surrealist poet and the first Greek psychoanalyst Andreas Embirikos

The photographic collection

The photographic collection is an ideal  supplement to the manuscripts. It comprises approximately 2,000 photographs and  100 slides that provide information about life in Hellas from the 1930s to the  1970s by documenting dramatic changes and places that do not exist any more. A  rare series of photographic portraits of Leto by Nelly, one of the first  important women photographers worldwide, is an interesting group. Many more  shots depict famous guests of the house and friends of the Katakouzenoi,  moments of joy and mourning, important events that no longer take place.

The books

More  than 10,000 volumes are scattered all over the house. They cover an interesting  range of subjects, from literature to history, from art and archaeology to  medicine in English, French, German and Greek. Many of them are first or  limited editions, signed and dedicated by their authors to the Katakouzenoi. A  rich collection of books on medicine, and particularly psychiatry and  psychoanalysis, brought together over 60 years by Professor Katakouzenos, is of  great value. Another rarity is the complete series of the art review Verve,  published by the couple close friend Teriade and featuring M.Chagall  illustrations of the Bible.

“Houses appeal  partly to the emotions, and this -their power for museum purposes- deserves to  be strengthened by developing atmosphere. One of the commonest remarks of  visitors in any well-appointed house is that they enjoy being there because the  place is like a home and not like an institution. Whatever meaning this may  have for other museums is beside the point; the implication for historic house  museum is plain. Historic houses must be made to live again.” (Coleman 1933:  35)

The  Katakouzenos house is one of these landmarks, a place of memory full of meaning  and charm, a lived place open to contemplation and calling for thoughtfulness.  Modern metropolises do not only need brand new cathedrals of culture and power;  they also need small chapels of inspiration and intimacy, where the past can be  relived and the future anticipated.

texts by Sophia Peloponnissiou-Vassilacou