From Antiquity to Today: A Single-Owner Collection of Cypriot History & Culture

Opening in 1988, the Cyprus Museum of Jacksonville, North Carolina housed one of America's premier collections of Cypriot cultural and historical artifacts, until its recent closure. These objects were amassed by a single individual, and are now being deaccessioned by the museum and are being offered in A Single-Owner Collection of Cypriot History & Culture.

The origins of the collection lie in modern day conflict. In 1974 the Turkish Armed Forces occupied the north of Cyprus. At this time the collector, who is of Greek-Cypriot descent, traveled to the country and began to accumulate a collection of antiquities, which were being plundered and destroyed in the fighting, in order to preserve them. His interest in these artifacts grew from there and the collection blossomed. Over the years the collector was recognized numerous times by the Cypriot government for his dedication to promoting and preserving the history and culture of Cyprus, including in the below letter dated January 1990 from Cypriot President George Vassiliou.
Leland Little Historical Specialist Rob Golan says that the strength and importance of the collection is threefold. It evidences "the creative spark of ancient Cyprus, the genius of early European cartographers, and the artistic expression of the political struggles facing today's Cypriots."

The wide range of pottery in the collection "thoroughly illustrates the development of pottery forms from the Bronze Age in the 3rd millenium BC to the pre-classical period ending around 500 BC" according to Golan. A number of the pottery pieces were at one time part of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot artifacts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Cesnola Collection was purchased by the Met in 1872 and became the foundation of the museum's reputation as a significant repository of important antiquities. The pieces in the current sale were deaccessioned by the Met in the 1920's.


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[Hellenistic Cypriot Oil Lamp, Ex. Cesnola Collection](

The maps in the collection are important artifacts in their own right. They were drawn by some of the most notable European cartographers of their day, largely from Belgium and the Netherlands, the epicenter of mapmaking in the 16th to 17th centuries. The map below was created by Abraham Ortelius, who is credited with having created the first ever atlas, as well as being the first to suggest that the continents were once connected.

Ortelius, Abraham. Cypri Insulae Nova Descipt.

Having been through antiquity and the Age of Discovery by way of pottery and maps, the paintings in this collection of Cypriot culture now arrive us at the tumultuous modern history of Cyprus. As the collector's own family history was tied to the strife between Turkey and Cyprus, he was drawn to art that depicted the effect of this and general modernization on the culture of the island. The collection includes such groupings as a series of thirty one paintings by artist Yiannis Pelekanos that depict Cypriot life as it was lived a hundred years ago, a series of linocuts by Hambis Tsangaris that deal with the division of Cyprus into north and south and the effect of that division on its people, as well as artwork that takes as it subject various other modern issues.
Hambis Tsangaris (Cypriot, b. 1947), Women Walk Home

Cypriot culture covers territory from the earliest imprints of civilization to the friction of a highly populated modern world. In his commitment to preserving it all, the collector of this assembly of artifacts created a collection of world-class breadth and depth.

Content produced by the Leland Little Editorial Team