My sister stumbled across this elegant photograph of a naval officer cadet in an Athens antique shop, and was immediately attracted by the unknown subject’s unusually piercing expression. The 17x12.5 cm presentation folder it comes in is equally elegant, with a fine resin cameo embedded in the front cover, surrounded by delicate art-nouveaux tracery in gold; the figure, an allegorical representation of art, represents a young woman holding a brush and palette.
Identified by his bold signature in white china ink, the photographer was Epaminondas Xanthopoulos, who maintained a studio in fashionable Ermou Street between 1903 and the mid-1930s. The son of Ioannis Xanthopoulos, a Constantinople photographer, he apparently studied in Vienna before settling in Athens at the turn of the century. Little else is known about him, including his dates of birth and death.
Though primarily a portrait artist, he seems like several of his colleagues to have at least once engaged in a modest form of war reportage; a photograph published in an illustrated magazine in 1914 and credited to him is captioned “The machine-gun section of the 8th Division”. This was almost certainly the legendary 8th Infantry, known as the Epirus Division, which participated in the capture of Ioannina in the First Balkan War and fought on the Macedonian front in the Great War. A long way from cameos, indeed.