(*To my English readers: I apologize for every mistake. Please be aware I am a Spanish writer) Here you have a Spanish version of this article
|Portrait of Leto Severis (1916-1998).|
Leto Severis, the great patron of Cypriot art, was born in 1916 and spent a large part of her life in Nicosia. The social conditions of the time did not permit her to pursue formal academic studies in her twin passions: history and archaeology. Nevertheless, she managed to acquire a considerable knowledge of both on her own initiative, later becoming an acknowledged historical writer. In 1936 Leto married Costakis Severis (son of the art collectionist Demosthenis Severis (1874-1955), to whom she transmitted her passion for archaeology. Together they achieved to extending their paternal collection to include artifacts of every period of Cypriote Antiquity from 4000 B.C. to the Hellenistic Period.
The Leto and Costakis Collection had in its apogee well over 2.000 items, focused more on the history of Cypriote art and its educational potential rather than on grandeur. A specially designed gallery in their home on Stasinou Avenue (Nicosia) was converted into a private museum which welcomed academics from around the world to complement their studies of Cypriote antiquities. All of them remained friends and scientific associates. After the Turkish invasion of 1974, Leto stopped collecting. She compared her loss of interest with that of “a pure and beautiful Cypro-Archaic vase with ornamental flowers forever cracked”. The disappearance of a large part of her collection, stolen from the family home in Kyrenia, was a main contributory element in her decision.
|Ladies of Medieval Cyprus|
(by Leto Severis).
Leto Severis was a founding member of the Friends of Archaeology Association and also a member of the Friends of the Cyprus Museum. In her later years, Leto Severis wrote the book Ladies of Medieval Cyprus while a month before her death she completed a second book, The History of Cyprus for Children.
Costakis Severis (husband of Leto) died in a tragic accident in 1991, while Leto passed away in 1998, leaving two sons, Demosthenis and Nicos, to continue her work. Between 2000 and 2006, large parts of the Leto and Costakis Severis were exhibited at major venues in the USA and Europe.
|The Leventis Museum (Nicosia, Cyprus).|
But, as sometimes happens to art collectors, both Leto and the Leventis museum received strong criticism because the lack of details on how, when and from who they acquired the antiquities, many of which could come from looting at archaeological sites. For example, Looting Matters exposes that 98.4 percent of the Leto and Costakis collection has an unknown origin. Not really surprising if we consider that, at the time the couple begun their collection, the law regulating the sale of antiques was very lax. In fact, between 1960 and 1970, the Cyprus Government did allow to Cypriot citizens to buy objects, vases, figurines, etc, which often came from looting, provided that those objects remain in the country.