Some Statuary Worth Visiting

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve learned of a couple of  bits of statuary folks might want to check out if they’re ‘in the neighbourhood’ … first is the so-called Fauno Rosso at the Nelson-Atkins MoA  . Here’s a bit from their page:

He is an unkempt creature of the wild, with shaggy hair and goat-like characteristics–pointed ears, a short tail and dewlaps–and he is delighted to raise high a cluster of freshly picked grapes. The red–marble Fauno rosso, a spectacular example of ancient Roman sculpture, will be on view for the first time ever in America, thanks to a new relationship between the city of Rome and the Nelson-Atkins. Through September 30, visitors to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art can view the sculpture in Kirkwood Hall, which has been transformed into a classic Roman palazzo.

The loan is part of a program of exchanges and cultural events that was launched with the support of the Embassy of Italy in 2011, called The Dream of Rome, a collaboration between the Capitoline Museums in Rome, Enel Green Power and the Knights of Columbus. Through The Dream of Rome, some of Rome’s masterpieces will be on display in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Kansas City.

… in case it isn’t familiar:


Also of note is that seated boxer at the Met which is only around for another week or so. From their official page:

The bronze statue Boxer at Rest was excavated in Rome in 1885 on the south slope of the Quirinal Hill near the ancient Baths of Constantine, where it is thought to have been displayed. The statue was intentionally buried in late antiquity, possibly to preserve it against the barbarian invasions that ravaged Rome in the fifth century A.D. The broad-shouldered, lanky pugilist is depicted just after a match sitting on a boulder to rest after the unnerving tension of the fight. Something catches his eye and makes him turn his head: perhaps the applause of the spectators or the entrance of his next opponent?

In his athletic nakedness, he wears only boxing gloves and a sort of athletic suspender (kynodèsme) that was both protective and an element of decorum. The many wounds to his head, the primary target in ancient Greek boxing matches, make clear that he has just completed a match. Blood, represented by inlaid copper, drips from cuts on his forehead, cheeks, and cauliflower ears. His right eye is swollen and bruised. His nose is broken, and he breathes through his mouth, probably because his nostrils are blocked by blood. His inwardly drawn lips are scarred, likely indicating that his teeth have been pushed in or knocked out. Despite his exhaustion, the muscles in his arms and legs are still tense, as if the battered champion were ready to spring up and face a new combatant. [...]

Even if you can’t get to it, you definitely should check out the article at Now at the Met: The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece Comes to the Met, which, inter alia, includes this great photo of its find spot on the Quirinal back in 1885:

… which could possibly inspire some Classical memes?

Pass the Fig Leaf

The incipit of an AFP item (via Google):

Greece has pulled two ancient statues from an ongoing Olympic Games exhibition in Qatar in a dispute over nudity, a culture ministry source said on Tuesday.

“The statues have already returned to Greece,” a culture ministry source told AFP, adding: “Organisers in Qatar wanted to cover up the statues’ members with black cloth. So they were never put on display, they went back into storage and returned on April 19.”

The statues — an archaic-era Greek youth and a Roman-era copy of a Classical athlete — are both nude, the manner in which Olympic athletes competed in antiquity.

Greece’s junior minister for culture Costas Tzavaras had travelled to the Qatari capital of Doha for the opening of the exhibit on March 27, saying it opened a “bridge of friendship” between the two countries.

According to the culture ministry, Greece has contributed nearly 600 exhibits from the National Archaeological Museum, the Numismatic Museum and the Museum of Olympia, birthplace of the Games.

The Doha exhibit runs to June 30.

A similar exhibit had previously been hosted in Berlin.[...]

… and just for comparanda: It Doesn’t Play in San Antonio Redux (October, 2012).

Grumbling About the Lod Mosaic Exhibit

I’m sure this sort of thing could be said about a number of exhibitions … from the Daily Pennsylvanian:

The “Lod Mosaic” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has garnered a lot of praise, but has also drawn criticism from Penn faculty.

The mosaic is on the last part of its tour in the United States. After the exhibits ends on May 12, it will head to the Louvre museum in Paris.

Limited information is known about the history of the Lod Mosaic, but a number of Penn faculty have voiced concern that the piece is presented without any archaeological context. “We don’t want to celebrate a master work in isolation,” said Professor of Roman architecture Lothar Haselberger, who initiated the conversation on how the mosaic is presented.

“Nothing is conveyed to the public that [the mosaic] is more than a carpet,” Haselberger said, referencing the fact that mosaics like the “Lod Mosaic” were popular in this time period as floor decorations in many buildings.

“This is an exhibit that really focuses on the meticulous conservation by the Israel Antiquities Authority of a dazzling Roman mosaic that was found during highway construction,” said Brian Rose, Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section at the Penn Museum.

On March 28, Haselberger met with colleagues from the Penn Museum, as well as the art history, classics and building conservation departments to draft and submit a statement to the Director of the Penn Museum, Julian Siggers, outlining their critiques on the exhibit.

Haselberger said they are still waiting on final approval, but that sometime this week the statement will be published on the Penn Museum’s website and will be featured on a poster set up in conjunction with the exhibit.

In 1996, the Israeli government was expanding the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv when they unearthed the remains of a Roman villa dating to about 300 A.D. — now known as the “Lod Mosaic”. “It took 13 years to assemble the money to excavate and conserve the mosaic,” Rose said, making this a prime example of “rescue archaeology.”

Jacob Fisch, executive director of the Israel Antiquities Authority — the group that has custody over the mosaic — said this critique of the exhibit was a first for him, but he does not see it as a serious issue.

“The theory behind what he says is relevant,” Fisch said, but he said the mosaic will be shown in its original context and location when it returns to Lod, Israel after its tour, where it is to be permanently housed in a new museum exclusively devoted to the mosaic.

The new Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center will be open to the public in 2014, but Fisch pointed out that not everyone would have the opportunity to visit the mosaic in Israel. The benefit of this tour is that “you can see an incredible work of art produced 6,000 miles away from 2,000 years ago,” he said.

Siggers agreed that he didn’t see a problem with the presentation of the mosaic’s context. He described the exhibit as a “story in progress” that displays the immediate story of the discovery and conservation of the mosaic itself.

Additionally, since very little information is actually known about the context of the mosaic, “It is presented in the fullest context we have the ability to do,” Rose said.

While it can’t be known for sure, Rose said that the mosaic likely came from the reception room of a villa owned by a wealthy businessman.

“It’s very possible that the combination of fish and exotic animals point to the fact that the owner was a wealthy Roman who lived in Lod and who somehow dabbled in supplying animals to the gladiator games,” Fisch said. Rose agreed that this is the theory that most experts have agreed upon so far.

Next year, an excavation report will be published to provide an “in-depth exploration of this mosaic in the context of the Roman world,” Siggers said.

Haselberger added that he is glad that the faculty were able to “articulate misgivings in a collegiate and forward-looking way” so that the debate surrounding the mosaic can be used as a teaching and learning opportunity.

“I’m happy to say that I initiated the conversation on this and I’m happy to see that we seem to come to a reasonable result,” he said.

Satyr + Goat Arrive at the British Museum

The Telegraph is doing a good job hyping this exhibition … that famous Pan and goat statue is there, and there’s even a photo in the Telegraph if you need a memory refresh:

An erotic statue has caused the British Museum to install a “parental guidance” warning in their new exhibition, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The sculpture is of the mythical half-goat, half-man Pan having sex with a nanny goat. The Times reports that the museum is determined to display the object in plain sight, rather than hidden behind a curtain or in a “museum secretum” – a restricted area for those aged over 14 in the Naples Museum.

Paul Roberts, senior curator, said the statue may be unconventional today, but would not have raised eyebrows in Roman Pompeii: “The Romans would see the god goat having sex with a goat, so it wouldn’t have troubled them at all.

Roberts says high-brow Roman owners would have been amused by the statue: “It’s because the owners are cultured that they have the sculpture of Pan and the goat. They also have a sense of humour, because to a Roman that would have been humorous, not offensive.”

He added that phallic symbols were commonplace in Roman homes. Images of the well-endowed fertility god Priapus, sometimes weighing his appendage against a quantity of gold, were often found at the entrance to houses as a symbol of success and good luck.

… which is interesting for other reasons as well: it was less than a year ago that the Telegraph was reporting on a brouhaha over some Leda and the Swan depictions: Classical Tradition Gone Wrong II: Bestial Leda? … I guess now we can open the debate on whether to include Satyrs among humans or animals.

Pompeii and Herculaneum ~ The Telegraph Coverage

Last week the Telegraph devoted a major portion of its newspaper to the upcoming Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum … I think I’ve managed to find all the links, all of which have plenty of images and all the Alastair Sooke things have videos. Some familiar names have penned most of these pieces. You can probably kill an hour or so perusing the following:

Dionysus in Australia

Some hype from the Sydney Morning Herald:

AS HEROIC gods go, Dionysus would fit right into Sydney: god of the grape harvest, bringer of culture and ritual ecstasy, he was the mythological inspiration for Alexander the Great, the 4th century BC Macedonian king and spreader of civilisations who is being honoured with his own blockbuster exhibition in our city on Saturday.

Dionysus, or at least his marble likeness cast in Rome in the second century AD based on the Greek BC original, arrived at the Australian Museum last week.

His tall, bespectacled courier, Andrey Nikolaev, looked a little weary after almost a week accompanying Dionysus over rail, sea and air only for museum staff to finally decide the two-metre tall, 1.5-tonne statue, which can only be moved by the base, was too fragile to part so soon from the wooden crate.

St Petersburg, home of the statue, has no cargo planes, so beginning on November 7, Nikolaev had chaperoned Dionysus by train to Helsinki, then ferry across the Baltic Sea to Travemunde, Germany; another train to Amsterdam; then a Boeing 747 to Frankfurt, Mumbai and Hong Kong; and finally a second Boeing 747, arriving in Sydney on November 13. Having sat in the crate for a day or two to acclimatise on the Australian Museum’s exhibition floor, Dionysus – joined on his plinth in the 18th century by a smaller marble statue bearing a dubious likeness of Persephone or Cora, wife of the ruler of the underworld – met with approval when workers drilled away the wooden crate screws and removed the door.

Why was this god of the grape so important to Alexander the Great? ”Because Dionysus is not just the god of wine, he also is a god of inspiration,” said Anna Trofimova, the head of classical antiquities at The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. ”He was the god, the Greeks believe, that brought culture to different peoples in a lot of countries.”

More to the point, Dionysus was the ”guiding star” for Alexander, who in turn brought civilisation, founded cities and spread Greek language and art from the Mediterranean to Central Asia and India. Alexander was the ”first political leader who thought on the scale of the planet”.

Whether Alexander’s death at the age of 32 was due to fever or poisoning is open to conjecture, but Dr Trofimova is certain of Alexander’s legacy.

”The dream of Alexander, and I believe in it, was unity of mankind between east and western people. His belief in civilisation, this is a great lesson for us; especially important in our days when west and east are very, very sensitive.”

… the original article has an interesting little video where you can watch the workers trying to figure out how best to unpack the thing …

Whither the Riace Bronzes?

Last August we read that the Riace Bronzes would (finally) be back on display “in time for Christmas” (Riace Bronzes Back from Vacation Soon) but the Art Newspaper gives a somewhat different impression today … some excerpts:


Reggio Calabria’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale has been mired in controversy since renovation work began in 2008. This include external structural renovations and interior remodelling and decoration. With an initial budget of around €11m, work ground to a halt just over a year ago after €23m in total had been spent on the project. The region has managed to find an extra €6m from central government, and says an additional €5m could come from European funds.

The biggest problem appears to be the refurbishment of the museum’s interiors, which has been the subject of disagreements between the Soprintendenza, the regional arm of the ministry of culture that runs the museum, and the project consultants.

Felice Costabile, a celebrated academic from Reggio Calabria who was appointed by the ministry of culture as the chief consultant on the project, says visitors will be frustrated by the proposed exhibition route, which will force them to start from the third floor and work their way down to the main exhibition halls on the ground floor. He adds that there are only two lifts available to take visitors to the third floor, each of which can only hold nine people.

His plan to use the internal courtyard to display monumental pieces of Greek and Roman architecture has also been thwarted by the officials’ decision to use the space as a bookshop.

But Simonetta Bonomi, the superintendent of Calabria’s cultural heritage, is adamant that the new visitor route is the best option. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Scopelliti, the president of the region of Calabria, says he believes the museum will reopen in December, but with an estimated shortfall of at least €5m. The likelihood of this happening has been met with widespread scepticism.

Meanwhile I’m sitting here thinking they probably could have paid for the renovations if they had sent the boys on tour (especially outside of Italy … apparently there was a big backlash when they suggested putting them on display in Florence again) back when renovations began … someone over there didn’t think this through …

Archaic Colors @ the Acropolis Museum

That ancient statuary was coloured is, of course, well known to all who wander through these pages and in recent years (weeks, even) there has been an upsurge in interest, it seems, in ‘recolouring’ things. Accordingly, the Acropolis Museum has mounted an exhibition devoted thereto … here’s a bit from the blurb:

Commencing Tuesday 31 July 2012 and for the next twelve months, the Acropolis Museum wants to conduct research on its unique collection of archaic statues, which retain their colors to a small or large degree, and to open a very extensive discussion with the public and various experts on color, its technical issues, its detection using new technologies, its experimental use on marble surfaces, its digital reconstruction, its meaning, as well as the archaic period’s aesthetic perception of color. So far, scientific research into the color found on ancient sculpture has made great progress and reached surprising conclusions that to a large degree refute the stereotypical assumptions regarding ancient sculpture. It turns out that color, far from being just a simple decorative element, added to the sculpture’s aesthetic quality.

For ancient Greeks and their society, color constituted a way to characterize various attributes. The blond hair of the gods projected their power; the brown skin of warriors and athletes was a sign of virtue and valor, while the white skin of the korai expressed the grace and radiance of youth.

The Μuseum’s initiative on Archaic Colors is based on very careful observation, on spectroscopic analysis, on special photography sessions, on efforts to reproduce the colors of antiquity and then to apply them on Parian marble, and naturally, on searching through written sources for valuable information on the pigments.
The statues’ crisp, saturated colors, on bright garments and tender bodies, combined with the rich jewelry, frequently made of metal, and elaborately curled hair created a singular aesthetic pleasure, making the archaic statues “wonderful to behold” for the people of the period. [...]

If you have kids, or are bored, or want to kill time, scroll down that page and you can colour the Peplos Kore in whatever gaudy goodness you want. The instructions are in Greek, but it’s not difficult to figure out …

At the Getty: Roman Runway

Man .. I swear if I lived in LA I’d be at the Getty all the time … check out what began this weekend:

Get the scoop on the fashion trends of ancient Rome—from soldiers and senators to slaves and aristocrats—during live runway shows at the Getty Villa most weekends beginning Saturday, June 9 until Sunday, July 1. Members of Legio VI Victrix, a historical reenactment group, will demonstrate how garments reflected Roman values, socioeconomic class, and historical changes during the Roman Empire. After the show, visitors will have a chance to go “behind the seams” to visit a Roman ornatrix (hair dresser) and try on related costumes and props.

And, of course, Aphrodite and the Gods of Love is still there for a month or so …

Getty Gets Some Relief

From a Getty Press Release:

THe J Paul Getty Museum Logo taken from a carv...

THe J Paul Getty Museum Logo taken from a carving at the museum. Photo taken on November 24, 2006 by Brian Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The J. Paul Getty Museum today placed on view a Decree Relief with Antiochos and Herakles, the first Greek loan to arise from a 2011 framework for cultural cooperation between the Getty and the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture.

On loan from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the marble relief bears a historical decree, dated to 330 B.C., which honors Prokleides, a military officer (taxiarch) in the Athenian army. The relief will be on view at the Getty Villa for three years in a second-floor gallery devoted to Religious Offerings.

The relief takes the form of a stele, a stone slab decorated with images and text, crowned with the figures of Herakles and his son Antiochos, who was the mythical hero of the tribe Antiochis. Herakles is depicted as an athletic nude, holding a club and the pelt of the Nemean Lion he vanquished, referring to the first of the twelve labors he had to perform. Seemingly the elder, Antiochos wears a dignified mantle and holds a staff (no longer visible, but probably added in pigment). Both father and son heroes were the subject of cult worship, and are shown standing within a small temple framed by columns and a pediment.

Written in ancient Greek below the figures, an inscription describes the honors bestowed upon Prokleides by his soldiers and comrades, all members of an elite infantry corps known as the epilektoi. This is the earliest known inscription referencing the epilektoi, a group of men bound together by their military service, participation in sacrifices and theatrical performances, and membership in the Athenian Council. According to the decree, Kephisokles of the village of Alopeke proposed the resolution to praise Prokleides, who “has well and with distinction taken care of security,” and crown him with a gold diadem worth at least 1,000 drachmas (an enormous sum, considering the average worker in classical Athens could support a family of four on one drachma a day).

Soon after arriving at the Getty, the stele was photographed using a technique that captures the object numerous times with varying degrees of raking light. The resulting composed image reveals the shallow lettering with unprecedented depth and clarity and enables a more accurate reading of the inscription. A transcription of the ancient Greek text, translation, and detail photography of the historical inscription accompanies the installation.

“The Antiochos relief commemorates the affection and respect of troops for their commanding officer,” explains Claire Lyons, acting senior curator of antiquities at the Getty Villa. “We are delighted that it will be on view at the Getty Villa in time for Memorial Day, when we honor the contributions of fallen soldiers to their communities and country.”

This long-term loan results from the Framework for Cultural Cooperation signed in September 2011, which provides for joint scholarship, research projects, loans, and exhibitions between the Getty and the Hellenic Republic. “As part of this framework of cooperation between the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture and the Getty Museum, we are pleased to have the Antiochos relief on display at the Getty Villa,” said Maria Vlazaki-Andreadaki, director general of archaeology in Athens. “We believe that this collaboration will promote classical studies in the United States and will spread the values and the spirit of ancient Greek civilization.”

Historical Background

The relief was discovered in 1922 in the foundations of a house in the Athenian neighborhood of Dourgouti. In antiquity, the area was known as Kynosarges and was the site of a public gymnasium and a sanctuary of Herakles, the greatest of the Greek heroes. Believed to have stood in this sanctuary, where several other inscriptions mentioning the tribe Antiochis were found, the relief was a votive dedication erected in a prominent public location befitting a successful military leader.

The Antiochos relief is a primary document of democracy, and the language of its inscription shows that voting and public speech were deeply ingrained in civic life two centuries after the foundation of democratic political institutions in Athens.

The creation of the Attic tribes was the most important feature of the revolutionary reorganization of Athenian politics that followed the overthrow of the tyrants in 508 B.C. In this system, ten tribes composed of approximately 3,000 citizens and their families were created. Each tribe was assigned the name of a mythical Athenian hero: Antiochos was the eponymous hero of the tribe Antiochis.

Drawn from villages in three distinct zones of the Athenian territory—the coast, the inland farming region, and the urban/suburban zone—the tribes represented the entire citizenry of Athens. Josiah Ober, Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, observes: “Imagine a reorganization of the United States that would require citizens from Maine, Texas, and California to work, fight, and feast together on a regular basis. The communities constituting the tribe of Antiochis included Alopeke, the philosopher Socrates’ home village—so we might even imagine that a descendant of Socrates as among the signatories to the decree.” [...]

… the original press release has a smallish image of the relief (the images link doesn’t work!). Art Daily has one that’s rather better:

… which made me think of this, for some reason:

Apollo Saettante at the Getty

Today I was sent a Getty Press Release of interest:

After eighteen months of analysis, conservation, and re-stabilization, the bronze statue of Apollo Saettante (Apollo as an Archer) from Pompeii will go on view at the Getty Villa from March 2 to September 12, 2011 in the exhibition Apollo from Pompeii: Investigating an Ancient Bronze. Providing a behind-the-scenes look at this rare treasure, the special six-month exhibition presents the results of the first full study of this ancient sculpture.

Originally located in the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, the Apollo Saettante was discovered in fragments centuries after it was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. The bulk of the figure was unearthed in June 1817 just north of the Forum. A year later, in October 1818, veteran soldiers hunting a fox near the ancient city walls stumbled across some of the statue’s still-missing parts. The Apollo was one of the first major bronzes to be found at Pompeii, and was subsequently reassembled and displayed in the Real Museo Borbonico in Naples.

The conservation of the Apollo Saettante at the Getty Villa is the result of an important collaboration between the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, as part of a broad cultural exchange agreement made in 2007 between the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Getty Museum. This exhibition marks the Apollo Saettante’s first showing in the United States, and complements the Villa’s collection of ancient works from Greece, Rome, and Etruria. Following its exhibition in Los Angeles, the statue will be returned to Naples, where the Getty’s conservation efforts will ensure its stability for generations.

The Apollo Saettante arrived in Los Angeles on loan for study and conservation treatment in 2009, together with the Statue of an Ephebe (Youth) as a Lampbearer, which is currently on view in the Basilica at the Getty Villa.

“This project has provided us an unprecedented opportunity,” said Erik Risser, an assistant conservator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. “Large bronzes rarely survive from antiquity, and the chance to conduct a thorough investigation into the Apollo Saettante has brought to light its rich and complex history.”

A variety of approaches, including archival research, X-radiography, ultra-violet photography, and endoscopic examination, have provided important new information regarding both the techniques used to make the statue in antiquity, and also the methods used to restore it in the nineteenth century. The investigations extended to analyses of the metal alloy composition, the pigments on the surface, and even of the types of bolts used in the re-assembly, all to answer questions about previous restoration efforts.

Apollo from Pompeii: Investigating an Ancient Bronze presents the results of these investigations, displaying art-historical, technical, and scientific evidence side by side in order to demonstrate the range of methods used during the study of the statue at the Getty Villa. Special features include the discovery of a large void in the statue’s back, which indicates that the method of its ancient manufacture was highly unusual, and the identification of two different phases of restoration. An interactive touch-screen display in the exhibition will provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the statue. This interactive feature will also be available on the Web at

Alongside select examples of ancient bronze sculpture from the Getty Museum’s Antiquities collection and a series of archival drawings and documents from the Getty Research Institute, the exhibition will also feature a bronze statue of Artemis, the sister piece to the Apollo Saettante. The two faced one another in the Temple of Apollo at Pompeii, and the inclusion of the Artemis, also on loan from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, will provide a unique opportunity to develop and extend the discoveries that have been made in examining the Apollo.

This exhibition follows a series of Getty Villa exhibitions devoted to restoration and conservation, including The Hope Hygeia: Restoring a Statue’s History (2008), Fragment to Vase: Approaches to Ceramic Restoration (2008-2009), and Reconstructing Identity: A Statue of a God from Dresden (2009-2010), as well as early excavations in the Bay of Naples (The Herculaneum Women and the Origins of Archeology, 2007).

The exhibition is also one in a series of Italian collaborations that have brought important works of art to the Getty Museum, beginning in June 2009 with the display of the Chimaera of Arezzo in partnership with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence. The Getty also has long-term agreements with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, and the Sicilian Ministry of Culture and Sicilian Identity, for exhibitions over the coming years.

Apollo from Pompeii: Investigating an Ancient Bronze is presented in collaboration with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. It is curated by the Getty Museum’s Erik Risser, assistant conservator of antiquities, and David Saunders, assistant curator of antiquities. This exhibition runs concurrently with In Search of Biblical Lands: From Jerusalem to Jordan in Nineteenth-century Photography, March 2—September 12, 2011 at the Getty Villa.

Here are a couple of photos of interest:

Apollo as an Archer (The Apollo Saettante), Roman, 100 BC- AD79. Courtesy of the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

The xray version is really neat:

2009 X-ray of Apollo as an Archer (The Apollo Saettante), Roman, 100 BC- AD79. Courtesy of the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Agrigento Youth at the Getty

Getty Villa ( Los Angeles ). Sign.
Image via Wikipedia

From a Getty mailing that just landed in my box:

The Agrigento Youth, one of the masterpieces of the Museo Archeologico Regionale di Agrigento in southwestern Sicily, goes on view today at the Getty Villa in a gallery devoted to images of athletes and athletic competition (Gallery 211). On loan to the Getty Museum through April 19, 2011, the figure is a rare example of an early classical marble statue called a kouros, or idealized nude young man.

To the ancient Greeks, sculptures such as these represented the finest civic ideals an aristocrat could attain upon reaching manhood. They were made to serve as costly dedicatory objects which could function as dedications to gods, representations of gods, or to honor the memory of a fallen mortal as part of his funerary ritual.

One of the best preserved examples of the kouros type in Sicily, pieces of this sculpture were excavated from two cisterns close to cult precincts devoted to Demeter and Persephone on the slope of the ancient acropolis of Akragas (modern Agrigento) in the late 1800’s.

The figure was carved by an unknown artist around 480 B.C., just at the artistic turning point between the archaic and classical periods. The style has been termed by scholars the Severe Style due to the solemn facial features and erect stance favored at this time. Under life size at 1.02 meters (40 inches) in height, The Agrigento Youth is comparable to the highest quality contemporary Athenian kouroi, with whom it shares many traits, such as the sensitively rendered modeling of the anatomy, the erect stance with one leg forward, and the serene and straightforward gaze. Unlike the majority of those statues, this figure’s right arm is raised as if holding out an object. The stone from which it was carved is a white marble imported from Greece, which indicates that The Agrigento Youth was an expensive and noteworthy dedication.

The sculpture is also distinguished by certain features which call attention to its Sicilian origins. The structure of the head is long and the face is oval, with prominent cheekbones, heavy-lidded eyes and a prominent lower lip. Sharply patterned hair is a feature common to all kouroi, but in Sicily the treatment is even more pronounced, with delineated strands of finely carved locks forming into a cap and rolled into a thick coil of hair banded by a simple diadem. Residues of the red pigment indicating the hair’s original color are clearly visible.

Before its installation at the Villa, the Museum’s conservation team collaborated with conservators from the Museo Archeologico Regionale to construct a custom seismic isolation base and pedestal for The Agrigento Youth. When the sculpture returns to Sicily, it will be accompanied by its new pedestal and earthquake-resistant mount for display in its home museum.

This is the latest in a series of cooperative efforts between the Getty and the Sicilian Ministry of Culture and Sicilian Identity arising from a 2010 agreement that calls for a number of collaborative projects, including object conservation, seismic protection of collections, exhibitions, scholarly research, and conferences.

“We are delighted to showcase The Agrigento Youth at the Getty Villa, and are pleased to continue working with our colleagues in Sicily in this latest chapter of our ongoing partnership,” says David Bomford, acting director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This loan, and its conservation component, meets the spirit of our agreement to work in partnership with our Sicilian colleagues to preserve and share Italy’s rich cultural heritage.”

The Agrigento Youth is the second major loan to arise from the 2010 agreement. The Gela Krater, a monumental red-figure volute-krater (wine mixing vessel) attributed to the Niobid Painter, was on view at the Villa since June before it was returned this month, also with a new, custom-designed seismic isolator base and pedestal.

“We are pleased to have these objects on view at the Getty Villa where they can serve as fine examples of Sicily’s cultural offerings, helping to create broader awareness for our collections and heritage,” explains Dr. Giuseppe Castellana, the director of the Parco Archeologico e Paesaggistico della Valle dei Templi. “It is also wonderful that both objects will return to us with new bases that make them more secure.”

In addition, the Getty recently partnered with the Centro Regionale per la Progettazione, il Restauro e per le Scienze Applicate ai Beni Culturali to organize a conference on the seismic mitigation of museum collections this month in Palermo. The conference included a workshop for museum technicians and conservators on seismic mount-making, and other topics related to caring for collections in earthquake-prone areas.

Still to come on loan are objects from the archaeological site of Morgantina in central Sicily. The Getty is also working with Sicilian colleagues on two upcoming Getty Villa exhibitions, one investigating Sicily during the Classical and Hellenistic periods, and another on Selinunte, an important Greek colonial settlement in northwest Sicily.

In addition to the Sicilian region, the Getty Museum has also established cultural partnerships with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.

For now, there’s a good photo from the Cleveland Museum of Art where the item was sojourning for a while …

Enhanced by Zemanta

Villa Farnesina Frescoes On View Again

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...
Image via CrunchBase

From the New York Times:

“A blinding vision.” That’s how the first century B.C. Roman architect and theoretician Vitruvius described the fresco technique popular during his time, and it’s an apt description for the newly revamped rooms of an ancient villa that is showcased at the Palazzo Massimo, part of the Roman National Museum.

Actually, Vitruvius “was criticizing the exuberance of the frescoes of his time and the excessive use of rich colors to create fantastic effects,” explained the museum’s director, Rita Paris. But the staff of the museum has chosen the phrase to ballyhoo the new arrangement the frescoes of the Villa Farnesina (Largo di Villa Peretti 1;, which opened on July 1.

“We wanted to recreate an environment that would give a better sense of the original villa,” Ms. Paris said. Now, gray walls that mimic the original floor plan separate the various rooms — two bedrooms, a dining area, and various corridors — while a video depicts a 3-D reconstruction of the villa.

A sophisticated and unique lighting system that recreates daylight hours from dusk to dawn in 100-second cycles lets visitors hone in on the details of the frescoes and vault stuccoes, which depict mythological scenes as well as more mundane activities. “It’s akin to seeing through the eyes of ancient Romans,” said Stefano Cacciapaglia, one of the architects who worked on the project.

The villa was discovered in 1879, in the Roman neighborhood known as Trastevere, while Rome was building up the banks of the Tiber. Though hypotheses are still open on its original owners, Ms. Paris suggested that recent research had singled out the first century B.C. general (and close friend of Augustus) Marco Vipsanio Agrippa as a possible proprietor.

The frescoes were restored when the Palazzo Massimo was opened in 1998. It is one of four branches of the National Roman Museum and admission price (7 euros, about $8.50) is valid for three days for all four sites.

via: Frescoes Revamped at Ancient Roman Villa | New York Times (blog)

There’s an url up there which doesn’t work and I can’t seem to find what it was supposed to point to (possibly this, but I can’t find any specific info on this there)…

The Art of Ancient Greek Theater @ the Getty

From a Getty Press release:

The Art of Ancient Greek Theater, on view at the Getty Villa from August 26, 2010 – January 3, 2011, is the first exhibition in the United States in over fifty years to focus on the artistic representation of theatrical performance in ancient Greece. Assembling international loans of antiquities from many museums and private collections, the exhibition illustrates the ways in which dramatic performance was depicted in the visual arts of ancient Greece between the fifth and the first centuries B.C. The exhibition is being presented in conjunction with the Getty Villa’s annual outdoor theater performance, Sophocles’ Elektra.

“Ancient art and theater share a strong and enduring connection–one that is inspired by mythology and the social, cultural, and political realities of life in ancient Greece and Rome,” says David Bomford, acting director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “With this exhibition and our annual production in the outdoor theater, we are delighted to bring ancient theater alive at the Getty Villa and invite our visitors to join us and discover how those themes found in ancient times persist today.”

The Art of Ancient Greek Theater spans centuries of artistic production throughout the cities of the Mediterranean. The exhibition showcases magnificent Athenian and South Italian vases as well as significant marble reliefs and numerous terracotta masks and figurines drawn from major collections in Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Themes of the Exhibition

Elaborate costumes, complex choreography, scenic architecture, and the mask—which continues to be an icon for tragedy and comedy—are vividly depicted in the visual arts of ancient Greece.

An introductory section introduces visitors to the architectural and physical environment of ancient Greek theater. The importance of drama to the civic and religious life in the ancient Greek world is reinforced by a large mural map, locating about one hundred ancient theaters in the Mediterranean. The map is complemented by marble sculptures of actors and poets as well as a model of the Theater of Dionysos in Athens, the home of the festival of the Great Dionysia, where the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were originally performed.

The exhibition is organized in three general themes. The first theme is devoted to the historical context of ancient Greek performance. Springing from the worship of Dionysos, theatrical performance developed out of the god’s religious rites and festivals. Objects on view depict actors, costumes, masks, choruses and chorusmen, with Dionysos the god of theater as motivator and benefactor.

The second theme focuses on tragedy and the satyr plays and will present comparative installations of vase-paintings inspired by ancient performances of Athens’ renowned tragedies: Aeschylus’ Oresteia; Euripides’ Medea, Herakles, Children of Herakles, Andromache and Iphigenia in Aulis; and Sophocles’ Oedipus. Objects representing satyr play will be anchored by the exceptional loan of the great Pronomos Vase from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.

The third theme of the exhibition features comedy. Depictions of comic parodies and farces, where gods and centaurs share the stage with plotting slaves and thieves, and genre vase-painting represents costumed and masked actors in scenes on ancient stages, include some of the most vivid painting from the ancient world.

“We hope that our visitors will come away with a rich understanding not only of the context of ancient Greek theatrical performance but of the many ways artists interpreted the choruses and plays they witnessed. These vase-paintings, reliefs and figurines are often the only evidence we have for many aspects of ancient drama.

Significantly, the heightened visual style and attention to details such as costumes and choreography result in portrayals of ancient actors, poets, and musicians that give us an immediate sense of their performance on stage,” says Mary Louise Hart, associate curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, who curated the exhibition.


During the run of The Art of Ancient Greek Theater, the Getty Museum will present Sophocles’ Elektra directed by Carey Perloff, artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, with a new translation commissioned from Timberlake Wertenbaker. Elektra will be performed in the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater at the Getty Villa on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, September 9 through October 2, 2010. In addition, the Villa Theater Lab will present Understanding a Satyr Play: The Trackers on November 19 and 20, 2010.

Publication and Related Events

The exhibition will be accompanied by a companion volume co-authored by Mary Louise Hart; Michael Walton, Professor Emeritus of Drama at the University of Hull, United Kingdom; François Lissarrague, Professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales Centre Louis Gernet, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris; Martine Denoyelle, École des hautes études en sciences sociales Centre Louis Gernet, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art; and H. Alan Shapiro, W.H. Collins Vickers Professor of Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University.

Harpocrates in ‘Devotion and Ritual’ Exhibition

Statuette en argent représentant Harpocrate, é...
Image via Wikipedia

Nice little feature, but lacking a photo (the one accompanying this post is not the one mentioned in the article):

Today, the Keith and Zara Joseph Collection goes on public display for the first time in the Potter Museum’s classic and archaeology gallery as part of an exhibition called Devotion and Ritual.

Before the exhibition’s opening its curator, Andrew Jamieson, showed some of the works that were, at that point, still stacked away in storage. He donned white gloves, opened the lid of an ordinary-looking box and from it gently removed a bronze statuette of Harpocrates from Alexandria, dated from around the 1st century BC.

“For me this is magnificent,” says Jamieson, “a wonderful example of a Roman bronze miniature statuette. It all comes together in a powerful way to make this a real standout example of Roman culture.

“It portrays all the hallmarks of Roman civilisation.”

Harpocrates was the Greek and Roman god of silence and secrecy but he originated with the Egyptians. After the Greeks conquered Egypt under Alexander the Great, the Greeks merged the Egyptian sun god Horus into their own god, who became known as Harpocrates.

Statuettes of Harpocrates were in demand throughout the Roman Empire when mystery cults and oriental religions became increasingly popular. Because of this popularity, images of Harpocrates were manufactured and mass produced. They were made either from inexpensive mould-made terracotta, suitable for house shrines, or from bronze, becoming in-demand cabinet pieces for wealthy connoisseurs.

“Unlike terracotta, works in bronze were considered luxury arts and they would have been treasured by their wealthy owners,” says Jamieson. “The small bronze statuette of Harpocrates was probably intended for personal use. Very high prices were paid for good specimens, especially when they were the work of well-known craftsmen. The fact precious objects were hoarded by the Roman elite accounts for their survival, in something like their original condition.”

According to Jamieson, in Egyptian representations of Harpocrates the god is often presented as a naked boy with his finger on or near his mouth, which indicates childhood. But the Greeks and Romans misunderstood this gesture and made Harpocrates the god of silence and secrecy.

Jamieson points out that Harpocrates is depicted as the child of the Egyptian gods Isis and Horus. Harpocrates is wearing a crown: the crown of the unification of upper and lower Egypt. In his left hand is a cornucopia, a symbol of abundance and plenty. His right hand is raised, with the finger pointing towards his cheek or lips.

“During the classical period and into ancient Rome, the deity of Harpocrates enjoyed a resurgence of interest, along with the cult of Isis,” says Jamieson. “So this is a really wonderful work in that we can learn so much about that time from the one figure.”

via Public Works: Bronze statuette of Harpocrates | The Australian.

Pompeii Casts on Display

Nice little video from the BBC:

more about “Pompeii Casts“, posted with vodpod

From the accompanying text (with a somewhat unfortunate headline, as FT noted on twitter last night):

They are the skeletal remains of the victims that have been preserved under a thin veneer of plaster, to give them their life form.

“Until now, these figures have been dispersed around Pompeii itself, or to other museums around the world,” says Grete Stefani, the organiser of the exhibition at the nearby Antiquarium de Boscoreale, a five-minute drive from Pompeii.

“They’ve never been seen together.” [...]

via: Pompeii’s frozen victims on display | BBC

UPDATE (a few hours later): Francesca Tronchin has made a couple of good comments on this, including a link to a very interesting article by Eugene Dwyer, From Fragments to Icons: Stages in the Making and Exhibiting of the Casts of Pompeian Victims, 1863-1888 (just in case you don’t see the comments).

Swords and Armour at the Colosseum

Another one that seems to be beginning to make the rounds:

An array of colourful and deadly-looking helmets, swords, daggers and shields has gone on display at the Colosseum, bringing to life the gladiatorial games of ancient times. The exhibition features around 30 gladiatorial artefacts unearthed at the archaeological site of Pompeii but the focus will be on helping visitors understand what the arena and its fighters really looked like 2,000 years ago. “This is not an exhibition in the traditional sense of the term but rather an array of modern objects alongside ancient finds,” explained Colosseum Director Rossella Rea. The event includes just nine display cases but is the work of years of work by expert Silvano Mattesini.

Mattesini not only examined surviving weapons, he also studied the accounts of ancient authors and hundreds of different artistic representations: frescos, reliefs, mosaics, graffiti, statues and everyday household objects, such as plates and vases. He then took his detailed reconstructions to metalworkers, tailors and carpenters who helped transform his research into real-life objects. The end result is a dazzling array of materials and metals: headgear with bright orange and yellow plumes, showy silk tunics and gleaming armour.

“The reconstructions are designed to help visitors understand the difference between the finds that have survived until the present day and what the public would have actually seen during the games,” said Rea. “It is particularly important to remember that the size of the Colosseum meant only those in the front rows had a clear view of what was going on. “The rest could see only moving colours and light: helmet plumes, the flash of weapons and the reflection of armour under the sun”. Early accounts suggest gladiatorial contests developed from displays of hand-to-hand combat at funerary games in Rome. The first written record by Valerius Maximus describes games staged by the two sons of Brutus Pera in honour of their dead father in 264 BC. Over the next few centuries, the games became a fixture of social and political life, funded by the rich and powerful to help win popularity. Work on the Colosseum started under Vespasian and was inaugurated in 80 AD. The author Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games, which went on for weeks. The latest exhibition at the Colosseum is the second it has devoted to gladiators in recent years, riding a wave of renewed interest sparked by the Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott 2000 blockbuster and the hit TV historical drama series Rome. Entitled Gladiatores, the show will remain on display until October 2.

via Swords and armour at the Colosseum |