Tomb of Sofia Afentaki (1856-1873)

Sculpture of a sleeping girl (Kimoméni). Sculptor: Yannoulis Chalepas (1851-1938)

Sofia Afentaki was born in Athens in 1856. She died of tuberculosis on December 17, 1873. Her uncle, Georgios Oikonomou Afentakis from the island of Kimolos, was very rich as well as a great benefactor. He commissioned the famous sculptor Yannoulis Chalepas to create the statue of his beloved niece at the tomb of the Afentakis family. Halepas represented the young Sofia in white marble as a sleeping girl lying on a couch. Her head tilts gently to the right on the richly decorated pillow. She holds a cross in one hand on her chest, while the other hand falls gently on the sheets. The statue depicts in a melancholic mood an almost alive girl who has just fallen asleep. On the lower right side of the tomb there is the inscription: ΓΙΑΝΝΟΥΛΗΣ ΧΑΛΕΠΑΣ /ΕΠΟΙΕΙ (made by Yannoulis Chalepas). In fact, the marble carvers Alexios Lavdas and Georgios Hamilos worked on the transfer of the model in marble. Behind the recumbent figure of Sofia’s lying figure is a tall funerary stele with a marble vessel from which a flame issues.
The sculptural burial type of “Koimomeni” (Sleeping Girl) can be found in at least six funerary monuments in the First Cemetery, made by different sculptors. This one however is the most famous. It is considered as a masterpiece of modern Greek art as well as one of the most decisive works for the fame of Halepas. Τhis is not only because the sad fact of an early death is rendered with rare tenderness and naturalness, but also because the artist's skill in rendering details, such as the folds of the sheet, is discernible. In addition, the insightful emotional approach to the portrait is masterful. Through a cold material, such as marble, the artist manages to express the soul in its most delicate journey. Considering death as an eternal sleep, the statue aptly depicts the relationship between the brother gods: Sleep and Death (Hesiod's Theogony). Sofia’s monument has acquired a catholic meaning and became a symbol of the Greek funerary art. It is also notable that almost every day visitors place flowers on it. Τhe plaster model is in the National Gallery in Athens.

Yannoulis Chalepas (Tinos Pyrgos 24 August 1851-Athens 15 September 1938) is a legend of modern Greek art, whose sculptural genius was recognized and highly appreciated. An extremely talented and distinguished artist, he was nevertheless tormented by mental illness. He came from a family of famous marble sculptors from the island of Tinos. From 1869 to 1872, he studied at the School of Arts in Athens under Leonidas Drossis.
In 1873 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Max von Windmann. In 1876 he founded his own workshop in Athens. After a severe nervous breakdown, he was admitted to the Mental Hospital of Corfu, where he remained in complete creative inactivity for fourteen years, from 1888 to 1902. When he returned to the island he lived in isolation and contempt. The period 1918-1930 was awakening and highly creative. His artistic work attracted the interest of eminent personalities in the arts and aroused public interest. The last years of his life he lived in Athens. His grave is in the First Cemetery.

City of Athens, Department of Cultural Heritage, 2022

@ text: Katerina Tsatoucha, Georgia Antonopoulou

@ photos: Victoria Kaisari

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