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40 years of active presence

Friday, December 1, 2023

    The Artist Nikos Stavroulakis

    Dedicated to the memory of Nikos Stavroulakis, this exhibition is a first step to portray his general image as an artist. It includes seven sections which present some of his work as a Folklorist and Ethnologist, as a Religious Illustrator, a Calligrapher, a Graphic Designer, an Engraver, and a Painter, while the last section under the title, Restless Creator, includes his miscellaneous works. Almost all of these works come from the JMG collection and the collection of the Etz Hayyim Synagogue, in Chania, Crete.

    Nikos Stavroulakis was not only an artist, but also a researcher. Consequently, his artistic nature cannot be distinguished from his scientific research. He might be characterized as a historian who introduced artistic methods to reconstruct the Jewish life of the past and to incorporate in his works feelings and findings from his research. In his eyes, the Jewish life of the past was portrayed as a single and lasting historical reality, partly known and partly unknown, which he tried for a long time to reconstruct and present. His research and artistic reconstruction feed each other.

    His rich education enabled him to acquire a broad cognitive and artistic view, within the context of Diaspora, and to spot diversifications over time and between places which enrich the total presence of the Jewish world. His ideological belief was that to be Jewish is a matter of principles and of the will to preserve the evidence of the history of the Diaspora.


    Nikos Stavroulakis (1932-2017)[1] was the son of Petros Stavroulakis and Anna Pinhas. He was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In 1954 he graduated from the Notre Dame University, Indiana, with a Bachelor of Arts in the European Literature and Philosophy. In 1956 he earned a Master’s of Art degree in Islamic and Near East Studies, from Michigan University. He began a D. Phil in Islamic Art and Architecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London under David Rice.

    In 1958 he settled in Athens, where he taught classes and worked as a painter and engraver. His works were exhibited in Athens, London, Paris, New York and Jerusalem.

    In 1965 he became officially a member of the Jewish Community of Athens and in 1969 he moved to Israel, assuming his Hebrew name, Daniel Hannan. Living in Jerusalem he served as director of the excavation of Santa Maria Allemana under the Jerusalem Foundation from 1969 to 1971. From 1972 to 1974 he lectured at the University of Tel Aviv in Byzantine Art and Architecture. In 1975 he completed his D. Phil thesis on “The icons of Mar Saba Monastery in the Wadi Kelt” (Lavra of St Savvas, in Judea Desert) under Prof. Bezalel Narkiss. After this, he returned to Athens, where he lectured in Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman history and art.

    A turning point in his life came in 1977, when in a room attached to the Synagogue of Athens, he started to build the preconditions for the establishment of the Jewish Museum of Greece. His principle was that “it should not be a Holocaust Museum, but a Museum reconstructing Jewish life, the life of simple, everyday people who found themselves trapped by terrible events, a Museum about how they had lived. The Museum should be a link with the past, which had been completely destroyed” (from a conference to Victor Eliezer). Since then, a great part of his work was connected with the development of the Jewish Museum of Greece, where he served as the director, until 1993.  Then he settled in Chania and until his death he devoted himself to the restoration and revival of the Etz Hayyim Synagogue, which stood in ruins since World War II. Under his direction, construction began in 1996, and the building was rededicated in 1999. In 2000, Nikos Stavroulakis travelled repeatedly to Thessaloniki to offer his knowledge and advice for the establishment of the museum of the local Jewish Community.

    In 2010, the Etz Hayyim Synagogue was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization, while Nikos Stavroulakis continued as its spiritual director, until his death, on 19 May 2017.



    Sephardi and Romaniote Jewish Costumes in Greece and Turkey, Athens, The Jewish Museum of Greece, 1986.

    Cookbook of the Jews of Greece, Athens, Lycabettus Press, 1986.

    The Jews of Greece, Athens, Talos Press, 1990.

    Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece, Athens, Talos Press, 1992.

    Salonika, Jews and Dervishes, Athens, Talos Press, 1993.

    Salonika, A Family Cookbook, Athens, Talos Press, 1997.

    [1] Not to be confused with Nicos Stavroulakis (1905-1976), a prominent modern Greek artist, who is renowned for his abstract expressionism.

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