As a result of a long-term loan and conservation agreement, the J. Paul Getty Museum will put on view 14 works of art this spring from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art's (SBMA) superb collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. On view in the South Pavilion at the Getty Center beginning May 24, the special installation will feature a selection of marble and bronze works depicting gods and goddesses, heroes, athletes, and other subjects. Before going on display, several of the loaned objects are undergoing conservation at the Getty Villa, including an important over-life-size Roman statue of the god Hermes (or Mercury), which is receiving extensive work.
"The Santa Barbara Museum of Art has an outstanding collection of Greek and Roman sculpture, including two important works from the celebrated Lansdowne collection in England—the Lansdowne Hermes and the Lansdowne Dionysos—that have strong ties to our own antiquities collection," says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. "We are thrilled to have this unique opportunity to provide these objects a temporary home so that they can stay on public view while the museum undergoes renovations. At the same time, we are pleased to offer our conservation expertise on several of the sculptures, so that when they return to Santa Barbara, they will do so in better condition than when they arrived."
Adds Jeffrey Spier, senior curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, "The loans on view also include many superb ancient Roman versions of Greek sculptures, including the famous athlete known as the Doryphoros, which was created by the artist Polykleitos in the fifth century BC, a Roman copy of Lysippos's Weary Herakles, and large statues of Athena and Apollo. Also featured is a small but very beautiful head of an Amazon, which is thought to be an original Greek sculpture of the fourth century BC. The objects are beautifully displayed in the Museum's South Pavilion, where floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Los Angeles."
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, this year celebrating its 75th anniversary, has begun an extensive renovation that includes seismic retrofitting and systems upgrades for a 100-plus-year-old building as well as the addition of new gallery and community spaces. Because SBMA is remaining open to the public during the duration of this multiyear project, the antiquities were moved offsite to protect them from any possible harmful effects of the construction.
All but one of the sculptures on display in the Getty installation are from the collection of Wright S. Ludington (1900–1992), a founder and generous benefactor of SBMA who lived in nearby Montecito, California. Like his contemporary J. Paul Getty (1892–1976), Ludington was a passionate collector of Greek and Roman art, though his wide-ranging tastes extended to modern works by Picasso, Matisse, and twentieth-century British artists. Also like Mr. Getty, Ludington acquired important Roman marble statues from the celebrated Lansdowne collection.
"It's wonderful that the most spectacular of our monumental Greek and Roman sculpture can be showcased so marvelously at the Getty Museum," says Eik Kahng, SBMA Assistant Director and Chief Curator, "and that additional conservation care is being taken in the treatment of our beloved Lansdowne Hermes. We look forward to learning from our colleagues at the Getty Villa about their discoveries. I am pleased that we found this solution to place these precious works of art in the best possible hands and that they remain accessible to visitors at the nearby Getty Center."
The Lansdowne Hermes, once considered the most valuable Roman sculpture in England, was discovered in 1771 near Rome. Both the Hermes and the Dionysos statues were purchased by William Fitzmaurice (1737–1805), 2nd Earl of Shelburne and 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, who served as British prime minister from 1782 to 1783. His house in London, known as Lansdowne House, contained a superb collection of ancient Roman sculpture acquired in Italy, including the famous Herakles in the Getty's collection, which is on display at the Villa.
The Lansdowne Hermes will go on display later this summer as part of the special installation following the completion of its conservation work. The statue has a long history of restorative interventions using diverse materials, which over time created some structural issues and discoloration. Getty Museum antiquities conservator Erik Risser has focused on identifying the past restorations and how they relate to the structural stability and aesthetics of the statue. The conservation treatment is concentrated on stabilizing and removing compromising materials to return the statue to its original appearance.
In addition, a first-century Roman relief of three dancing nymphs will go on view in the Getty's West Pavilion Decorative Arts galleries later this summer.
Greek and Roman Sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is curated by Jeffrey Spier, senior curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Jens Daehner, associate curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The works in this exhibition are on long-term loan from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art while it undergoes a multiyear renovation for seismic retrofitting and refurbishment.
About the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, one of Southern California's finest art museums, features nationally recognized collections and special exhibitions of international importance. Highlights of the museum's remarkable permanent collection include antiquities; nineteenth-century French, British, and American art; twentieth-century and contemporary European, North American, and Latin American art; Asian art; photography; and works on paper. Current exhibitions include and Lewis deSoto: Paranirvana (Self-Portrait) (through July 31) and Puja and Piety: Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist Art from the Indian Subcontinent (through August 28).
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