The J. Paul Getty Museum is putting on display 14 works from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s (SBMA) trove of ancient Roman and Greek sculpture, which the Getty has been helped to restore and conserve. The special installation beginning May 24 at the Getty Center off the 405 will feature a selection of works in marble or bronze that depict gods and goddesses, athletes and heroes. This summer, it will also include a larger-than-life-size statue of the Roman god Hermes that was once considered to be the most valuable Roman sculpture in England and is receiving extensive work at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.
The SBMA and Getty both own invaluable ancient works acquired from the Lansdowne Collection in England. They have previously partnered to ensure the longevity of their trove. The 14 sculptures are on long-term loan from and part of the ongoing conservation agreement the Getty has with the SBMA. While the works are renovated and displayed at the Getty, the 75-year-old Santa Barbara museum is undergoing its own renovation with seismic retrofitting and refurbishment.
“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,” noted Getty museum director Timothy Potts. The Getty collection includes the Lansdowne Herakles, which was reportedly a personal favorite of J. Paul Getty himself. William Fitzmaurice, the first Marquess of Lansdowne, who was the British prime minister from 1782 to 1783, was an avid collector of antiquities. Descendants dispersed most of the collection in the 1930s.
The Getty director added, “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,” Potts noted.
The sculptures that will be on view starting Tuesday include superb Roman versions of Greek works, including a 5th century B.C. one of the athlete Doryphoros created by the artist Polykleitos. There are statues of Athena and Apollo as well as a Roman version of Lysippos’s Weary Herakles. The exhibition, housed in the Getty Center’s South Pavilion, also includes a small head of an Amazon believed to be an original 4th century B.C. Greek sculpture.
The Lansdowne Hermes that will go on display later this summer was discovered in 1771 near Rome. Lord Lansdowne’ residence in London, known as Lansdowne House, housed the Hermes, the SBMA’s Dionysos statue and the Herakles in the Getty’s collection. Over the centuries, various restorations were done on the works with diverse materials not in use now because they cause discoloration and other issues. The current works on the Hermes is to stabilize and remove materials used before, and return the statue to its original coloring and look. The Getty’s antiquities experts restored the SBMS’s Lansdowne Dionysus several years ago and it went back on display in Santa Barbara in 2012.
Nearly all the SBMA sculptures going on display at the Getty were from the collection amassed by Wright S. Ludington, who was a founder of the Santa Barbara facility. Like J. Paul Getty, Ludington passionately collected Greek and Roman art, as well as 19-20th century works.
The current Getty effort to restore and display sculptures from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is just their latest. The Getty Museum is renowned for its collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, decorative arts, photographs and more. Their restoration experts partner with museums worldwide.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Getty Center: Getty Museum to Display Ancient Greek and Roman Sculptures from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA): Antiquities
ArtFix Daily: “Lansdowne Dionysus” Returns to Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of the J.Paul Getty Museum.