The Ancient Sculpture page contains 75 images of sculptures from ancient Mediterranean cultures
taken at the Getty Center while the Getty Villa was being renovated. These sculptures have since
been moved back to the Getty Villa. Some images from the Getty Villa are included for context.

This page contains several images of objects which were returned to Italy after it had been
determined that they were illegally excavated and sold by dealers trafficking in looted art.

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Controversial Antiquities

This first group of images shows some of the antiquities which were part of a group of 40 objects
which the Getty repatriated to Italy after determining that they had either been looted or smuggled.


Aphrodite Cult Statue 1497

Cult Statue of a Goddess (probably Aphrodite), Greek (South Italy), 425-400 BC, limestone, marble and pigment.

The Cult Statue of a Goddess, also known as the Getty Aphrodite and the Morgantina Venus, is a monumental (7.5 ft., 2.3 m) acrolithic (with stone extremities) statue of a deity (probably Aphrodite, but possibly either Hera, Demeter or Persephone), made of Sicilian limestone and Parian marble which was acquired by the Getty in 1988 and returned to Italy in 2011 when it was determined that it was most likely illegally excavated in 1977 or 1978 near the 5th-to-1st century BC town of Morgantina in Sicily. The physique and the diaphanous clothing suggest the traditional identification as Aphrodite, although the statue's breasts are not typical of those of most Aphrodite sculptures from the end of the 5th century BC. Images of Demeter from this period were typically wearing a peplos (a draped garment held on the shoulders by a fibula... the chiton was a sewn garment). This combination of a chiton and himation (a draped mantle or wrap which played the role of a cloak in the Archaic through the Hellenistic periods from 750-30 BC) indicate the possibility that the statue could be representing Persephone, whose statues and reliefs were often shown with a similar physique, clothing and posture during the late 5th century BC.


Aphrodite Cult Statue 1650-1623

The Cult Statue of a Goddess was originally purchased by the Getty in 1988 for $18 million. Often identified with Aphrodite, as has been discussed and will be further elaborated below, experts now consider it to be a representation of either Persephone or Hera. The Goddess now resides in a 17th century Capuchin monastery in Aidone, near the town of Morgantina where it was excavated. The windblown drapery of the Goddess is a clear reference to Phidias, the Greek master sculptor who carved the figures adorning the Parthenon in Athens, and it is one of very few in existence from the high Classical period in Greece.


Aphrodite Cult Statue 2121


Aphrodite Cult Statue 3038

Note the broken edge of the himation (the draped mantle) behind the left shoulder of the sculpture in the right image above. This edge, along with several unrestored fragments, indicate that the himation was originally pulled over the head of the statue. Use of the himation as a veil was typical in depictions of mature married women, which would eliminate Aphrodite as the subject. Both Demeter and Persephone were often depicted with veils of this type, and both were worshipped in Sicily. The most likely candidate may be the goddess Hera, who was also worshipped in Sicily. Hera was often shown in bridal dress. The Cult Statue wears a tripartite costume: a linen chiton (only visible where it buttons at the shoulders and just above the feet), a woolen peplos (the upper folds covering the breasts and torso, the lower folds over the left lower leg and right foot), and the himation of very light material (which swirls around the legs and lower abdomen, held in place by the lowered left arm). This is most likely a bridal costume, thus making it more likely that this is a depiction of Hera, whose marriage to Zeus was celebrated in her temples.


Aphrodite Cult Statue 3750

For many years, the Cult Statue of a Goddess was purported to have been in the family of a former Swiss policeman for more than 50 years after his father purchased it in Paris in the 1930s, but the Getty hired private detectives in 2006 who tracked down photos of the fragmentary statue and a link to organized crime which destroyed the credibility of that story. Those photos showed fragments scattered in a pile of dirt on a brown tile floor, and the marble face still encrusted by dirt. The date on the photos (early 1980s) proved that the statue was illegally excavated not long before the Getty bought it from the London dealer. The Getty agreed to return the Cult Statue of a Goddess as part of a group of 40 antiquities that had been determined to have been illegally excavated or smuggled from Italy.


Apollo 1629


Apollo HS3778

Apollo, Roman, 100-200 AD, marble

Apollo (god of prophecy, music and poetry), depicted as a young man. Carved in the Archaistic style which reflected a renewed interest in Greek art of the Archaic period (700-480 BC), the god stands frontally with his weight on his left leg, the left hip thrown outward, and his right leg slightly advanced (this leg was restored between the knee and ankle, which was missing when the statue was acquired in 1985). He is nude except for a cloak covering most of his back, wrapped over his left arm and hanging forward over his right shoulder. A fillet binds his hair, and two corkscrew curls spiral down over his temples. Beside Apollo are the fragmentary hindquarters of a seated griffin, a mythical winged feline which frequently accompanied the god.

The Apollo statue was originally thought to have been created between 320-280 BC due to the techniques of carving, the finishing of the hair, body and drapery, the details of the griffin and plinth, and the simplified connections with dowels. It was thought to be a rare example of Archaizing Greek art from the period before the late Hellenistic age in Greece, but later analysis determined that it was a Roman work from the first to 2nd century AD. While the mass of corkscrew curls is a Roman feature, the smile and the deep folds of drapery are characteristically Greek.

Purchased by the Getty for $2.95 million from diamond magnate Maurice Tempelsman (with the Trapezophoros), this is one of the antiquities which was returned to Italy after they were discovered to have been looted or smuggled. The statue was pictured on the Medici Polaroids which were seized in Geneva from the antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici, who sold more antiquities at Sotheby's than any other dealer in the 1980s.


Tyche 1543


Tyche 3647

Tyche (goddess of good fortune, especially of a city), Greek, 150-100 BC, Marble.

This 33 inch Hellenistic-period Greek marble statue of Tyche, identified by the crown shaped as a city wall, is one of the antiquities which the Getty returned to Italy. The small size of the sculpture suggests that it was used for private worship. Holes in the ears and the back of the neck indicate that the statuette was originally adorned with earrings and a necklace. Originally purchased from the Fleischman collection for $2 million (the Fleischmans were on the board of the museum at the time). The statue was depicted, before it was cleaned of the encrusted dirt, on the Medici Polaroids which were seized in Geneva.

Several features of this statue give the impression that it is a distinctly late Hellenistic interpretation of the earlier model. The thong sandals with thick soles indented between the big toe and the others are typical of High Hellenistic statues and remained fashionable through the second century BC. The thin chiton gathered and sewn to a neckband is common to goddesses on the altar at Pergamon among others. Over the chiton Tyche wears a peplos, an old-fashioned garment which was not often portrayed by Hellenistic artists. This peplos is different than Classical peplophoroi in that it is long enough to trail on the ground, and the fabric of the upper dress clings to the body and falls in deep folds around the legs.


Tyche 2130-2133

The statuette of Tyche is made of a translucent, large-crystal Greek island marble. The heavily-draped figure is identified by the turreted mural crown as Tyche, in this case the personification of a specific city's identity rather than the goddess of good fortune in general. In the Hellenistic period (323-31 BC), statues of Tyche were commissioned by cities to ensure safety and prosperity. This statuette was probably a miniature version of a life-size (or more likely a colossal) public monument made in early Hellenistic times, when many cities were founded by Alexander’s successors and images of their Tychai were created.


Tyche 1547


Tyche 3030c

The left arm, which was made separately and attached with a metal dowel, probably held a cornucopia (although another attribute such as a baby or a small animal is also possible). The right hand, lowered and extended to the side, very likely held the top of a ship's rudder which was attached by a pin at the base beside the right foot. The basic figure type and the drapery is similar to statues of Eirene, the personification of Peace. The mural crown, which is tall and narrow in comparison to the broader crowns of Roman statues, has the form seen in copies of the early Hellenistic Tyche of Antioch.


Tyche 3683


Tyche 3680

The most unusual element of this statue is the long veil which is worn over the mural crown instead of under it,
falling from the top of the headdress to the ground. This fashion is similar to very ancient religious cult images.
The style of this statue indicates that it was made in a workshop in a Greek city of coastal Asia Minor or nearby
islands. The careful workmanship and the fact that this statue was adorned with real jewelry suggests that the
statue had a devotional significance for a wealthy family or an association of merchants. This Tyche statuette
is the finest of the surviving versions of this type of sculpture, and it is the only one whose head is still intact.


Dionysos 3662


Dionysos 2157

Statuette of Dionysos with an Animal, Roman, mid-1st century AD, marble.

This statuette of a draped Dionysos (Bacchus) with an Animal is 24" tall with its rectangular integral plinth. Sculpted to mimic Archaic stiffness, the statuette is draped with delicately carved, diagonally worn animal skins and complex layered garments. This statuette is part of a series of Roman statues made in the 1st c. AD which were influenced by the Archaic revival of late Hellenistic Rhodes and Asia Minor, and is the only one of the series with its original head, which is wreathed with vine leaves and grape clusters. Dionysos' hair hangs in long ribbon-like strands, two on either side at the front, and is gathered in a barrette in the back. His eyes are lowered, and he evinces an enigmatic smile, which is emphasized by the long mustache, the ends of which curl up in an unusual manner for an antiquity. His beard is a broad Archaic spade shape with an offset upper section and with the tip tied off in a tassel.

Most statues in this series have small animals, although all but fragments have been lost. In this statue the entire body is intact, although the head is missing. The animal (what seems to be a well-developed but tiny male goat with a massive chest) rests its left foreleg on Dionysos' left knee and steps on his foot with its left rear hoof. Its coat is rendered in rows of snail-shell curls.

Acquired as part of the Fleischman Collection (and pictured on the Medici Polaroids), this statuette was returned to Italy.


Trapezophoros Griffins eating Doe 1651

Trapezophoros, Two Griffins Attacking a Doe, Greek (South Italy), 325-300 BC, marble and pigment.

Carved from a single block of stone (except for the Griffin's ears), this polychrome marble trapezophoros (table support) is distinguished by its naturalistic forms and attention to detail. Brightly colored pigment, some of which is still visible on the wings, crests and in other areas, increased the dynamic rendering of the Griffins. The two Griffins crouch over their fallen prey on a rough base similar to those used for ancient Attic funerary animals of the 4th century BC. The curling Ionic wings (traditionally eastern Greek) were carved as a single piece (not separated), and each has a large rectangular and horizontal slot and a vertical groove on the facing, probably designed for a metal or wooden support for the table top which rested on the curling upper surface of the wings. The high quality of the carving and the stylistic detail of the animals (especially the eyes, which are treated as a raised dome) indicate that this was carved within the period when the last of the Athenian funerary beasts were created in the quarter century just after the death of Alexander the Great.

Griffins were mythological creatures associated with Apollo in the east, and by Classical times the motif of the griffin attacking a weaker animal symbolized the forces of civilization over barbarism, the power of the sun rising from the east, or the divine determination of death which sometimes arrives suddenly to mortals.

This image was taken at the Getty Center at an oblique angle to avoid reflections from the glass case.


Trapezophoros Griffins eating Doe HS4057

This image of the Trapezophoros was taken at the Getty Villa just before it was returned to Italy.

Purchased from diamond magnate Maurice Tempelsman for $6.5 million along with the statue of Apollo (above), it was part of the looted antiquities depicted on the Medici Polaroids and was returned to Italy along with the other objects once it had been determined that they were illegally obtained. The Trapezophoros was illegally excavated from a Macedonian tomb near Ascoli Satriano (Foggia, Italy) in 1976-77, and is considered to be a masterpiece, with no pre-existing equals. It was sold to Giacomo Medici, then trafficked by London dealer Robin Symes who sold it to diamond magnate Tempelsman, who sold it to the Getty along with the Apollo and a Lekanis foot bath (which was purchased for $2.6 million).


Askos in the Shape of a Siren HS3845

Askos (Oil Jar) in the Shape of a Siren, Greek (Southern Italy), 480-450 BC, bronze.

This bronze Askos was used to hold expensive scented oils. Although the artist is unknown, it was made in a southern Italian workshop, and the facial features and head as well as the musculature of the figure of the male youth used as a handle date the askos to the 2nd quarter of the fifth century BC. This askos has great importance because it is an early Classical Bronze of exceptionally fine quality, because it provides valuable insight into early Classical Greek bronze-casting techniques, and because metal vessels cast in the shape of a siren are exceedingly rare. There are a few siren-askos from the Archaic period, predating this example by a century or so, but this is the only one from the early Classical period.

Sirens were human-headed birds who had great power over music and the world of the dead. No mortal who heard the voice of the siren lived to tell about it, except Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey, who strapped himself to the mast of his ship. Some of the early representations of sirens were male, but by the 5th c. BC the bearded males disappear and the only representations are female. Later representations of sirens had human bodies (often with bird legs and feet), but the earlier ones like this had bird bodies and human arms. In her left hand she holds a pomegranate and a syrinx in her right (a primitive wind instrument, aka pan pipes). The upper body of the askos has human breasts covered by a peplos with overfall, but this ends at the waist, beyond which are feathers, which have been carefully rendered. The condition of the askos is superb, with only a small ancient dent in the lower surface of the right wing. The head and the rendering of the hair (wavy and drawn back behind a simple crown) are similar to early Classical works from southern Italy and Sicily.

The Askos in the Shape of a Siren was purchased from the Fleischman Collection for $600,000 and was determined to have been illegally acquired, thus it was returned to Italy along with the other objects repatriated due to looting or smuggling.


Amphora Wedding of Alcestis HS3602

Black-figured Amphora, Wedding Procession of Alcestis and Admetos, Attic Greek, c. 530 BC, terracotta

The wedding procession of Alcestis and Admetos (Admetus) is on the principal side of this Panathenaic-shaped Amphora (large ceramic vessels containing olive oil, given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games). These vases were commissioned by the state from the leading pottery workshops of the day. This amphora dates from the period when their characteristic shape was set (530 BC). By the early 4th century BC, the archon's name (the ruler or chief magistrate) appeared on the vases, and as the 4th c. BC progressed these vases became more elongated (see the Amphora Prize Vessel Athenian Games HS3651).

The painting on this vase is attributed to the Three-Line Group, named for the three lines seen below the patterned frieze. Admetos (King of Pherae in Thessaly) was fated to die young, but Apollo won an extension for him from the Fates if he could find someone to give their life for him. Admetos approached his aged parents, who declined, and only his wife Alcestis was brave enough to die for him. On this vase, the couple stand in a quadriga (four-horse chariot), with Admetos in a chiton and mantle holding the reins. Alcestis is veiled, in a dress with incised squares enclosing circles. Apollo stands behind the horses but in front of the chariot, and facing him is Artemis, wearing a patterned dress and holding her hand up in front of her face in a gesture of greeting. In the myth (and in Euripedes' play), Alcestis is rescued from Death by Heracles. Other than on this vase, the wedding procession is only shown on fragments of an Attic Red-figured Loutrophoros (water-carrying vessel used during marriage and funeral rituals) in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

This Attic Amphora was acquired from the Fleischman Collection for $400,000. The Fleischmans bought it from Fritz Burki, who had apparently acquired it directly or indirectly from people who had illegally excavated it from a site in central northern Italy. The amphora was returned to Italy as part of the repatriation of the 40 antiquities found to have been looted or smuggled from Italy.


Antefix Dancing Maenad and Satyr HS4076

Antefix in the form of a Maenad and Silenos Dancing,
South Etruscan, 500-475 BC, terracotta and pigment.

Originally purchased for $396,000 from the Fleischman collection, this early 5th century BC
Etruscan roof ornament was also among the antiquities which were returned to Italy by the Getty.

A Maenad was a female follower of Dionysus (Bacchus in the Roman Pantheon). Often portrayed in a state of ecstatic frenzy through a combination of dancing and intoxication, their name literally translates as the "raving ones". Silenos (or Silenus) was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. Typically older than other satyrs in Dionysus' retinue, earlier representations of Silenos resembled a folkloric man or the forest with the ears (and sometimes the legs and tail) of a horse.

This two-figure group was made by mold and is joined at the rear to fragments of a semicircular cover tile. The left ear, left arm and shoulder, left hip, leg and foot of Silenos and the right edge of the base are missing. The Maenad and Silenos stride to the right, each with an arm around the other's shoulder. The barefooted Maenad's legs are in profile, her body is in 3/4 view, and she averts her head from Silenos, turning it towards the front. The Maenad wears a thin chiton and has a light mantle over her back with zigzag-patterned ends which fall over her shoulders. In her right hand, she carries a pair of castanets. Between her feet you can see the right hoof of Silenos. A fragmentary antefix (probably from the same mold) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York shows that Silenos wore a panther skin, one paw of which hung between his left leg and the Maenad.

The original polychrome paint is exceptionally well-preserved for an artifact of this period. The Maenad's red chiton is scattered with rosettes (four white dots), and around its lower edge runs a border of black and white stripes. The mantle is striped in white, black and red. The Maenad's skin is white, the skin of Silenos is ocher. This is one of the largest surviving examples of this type of antefix, which may have come from Cerveteri.


Altars with Aphrodite and Adonis 1652

Pair of Portable Altars: Aphrodite, Adonis and Five Nymphs, Greek, Taras, South Italy, 400-375 BC, terracotta.
This is an exceptionally important pair of arulae due to their artistic quality, their size, and the state of preservation.

These scenes are interpreted as the Death of Adonis (god of beauty and desire), an annually-renewed vegetation god who was worshipped by women. Adonis, looking weak, sits supported in the arms of his lover (Aphrodite, goddess of Love). Two women in poses of grief flank them. On the left altar, three women rush to the scene, carrying musical instruments (a tympanum, or drum, and a xylophone). According to the myth, Aphrodite fell in love with the beautiful mortal youth Adonis, who was unfortunately killed in a hunting accident (which in some versions of the myth was caused by jealous gods). Aphrodite was devastated, and Zeus (king of the gods) made Adonis immortal, allowing him to leave the underworld for part of the year to be with Aphrodite. He had to return to Hades in the fall. This cycle of death and rebirth was linked to the crop seasons.

The scenes on the two arulae form a unified composition, although Arula 2 (at right) forms a self-contained scene. On Arula 1, three women move in an orderly row across rocky ground, each dressed in a peplos with long overfolds. The two women at left wear hoop earrings with the one in the center wearing a sakkos (a fabric headdress). All three faces are in profile, with the one at left raised slightly and the others lowered. Their lower bodies and legs are in three-quarter view and overlap, with the legs fully modeled beneath the cloth, which clings to the bodies revealing the form beneath. The center woman carries a ladder-shaped xylophone which she plays with her right hand. The woman on the right holds the shoulder of the woman in the center with her right hand, and holds a tympanum (which is shown in perspective) in her left hand.

The composition on Arula 2 (right) is a self-contained scene, with the rocky ground at lower left forming the continuing element between the two arulae. The focus is on the embracing couple, Aphrodite and Adonis, who are seated next to each other on rocks. Aphrodite is seated to the left, with her upper body in a frontal pose and her head turned slightly to the right. She wears her peplos pinned only on the left shoulder, leaving the right breast exposed. She embraces Adonis with her left hand. Adonis, whose rather soft body is covered from the waist down with a himation, has his right arm about the shoulders of Aphrodite and his left brought to his head to hold the himation in place. Aphrodite and Adonis have their right legs crossed behind their left. Two women flank the couple. The one on the left faces them, with her head in profile and her body in three-quarter view, carrying a tympanum in her right hand and raising her left to pull the overfold of her peplos over her hair. Her peplos is pinned only on the right shoulder, leaving the left breast exposed. The woman to the right is seated on a casket with her head downcast in a pensive and melancholy expression with her hands clasped around her right knee and the right leg crossed behind the left. This is a quiet and introspective scene which contrasts with the motion of the windblown figures in Arula 1. The composition depicted on Arula 2 shows more depth of perspective and a greater sense of space, with figures in the foreground and background placed on different levels, while the composition of Arula 1 is more linear.

Small portable altars (known as Arulae) were a common product of South Italy and Sicily from the sixth century BC down to the Roman period. Arulae have also been found in Greece and as far away as the Black Sea. They were most often made from terracotta (occasionally from stone), and most are square or rectangular. Altars which are called Arulae are portable and too small to be used for animal sacrifice. This pair is relatively large, in an excellent state of preservation, have a high artistic quality in their reliefs, and so far are unique in that they form a pair, with the complementary decoration making a unified scene. The arulae were reconstructed from numerous fragments and are 90% complete (the few missing areas were filled with a synthetic material to which terracotta powder was added to match the existing texture.

Taras, an ancient Greek colony, was a coastal city in Apulia, southern Italy (modern Taranto), and was the center of a thriving Greek pottery industry a century later, during the 4th century BC. Most of the works from Taras were large, elaborate red-figured vessels for mortuary use, such as volute kraters, loutrophoroi, paterai, etc.


Gravestone of Philoxenos and Philoumene 2120

Gravestone of Philoxenos and Philoumene, Greek, Athens, c. 400 BC, marble.

Philoxenos, a warrior with armor and shield, solemnly shakes hands with his wife Philomene on this stele, or gravestone, from Athens. Their names are carved above the figures' heads, and the figures were originally elaborated with painted details. The handshake was a symbolic and popular gesture on Classical gravestones: it could represent a simple farewell, a reunion in the afterlife, or a continuing connection between the deceased and the living. The fact that it is often difficult to tell which figure represents the deceased further emphasizes this connection of the worlds of the living and the dead. On grave markers of the late 400s BC, the living rarely display sorrow or grief. Instead, their calm, expressionless faces reproduce the idealized features and detachment that prevailed in the sculptural style of Athens and the surrounding area (Attica) at this time.

Philoxenos, represented here wearing a helmet and cuirass, probably distinguished himself in combat and fell in battle. On his head he wears an Attic helmet adorned with a tall incised brush, with the visor pushed up and with no cheekpieces. He wears a short-sleeved tunic under his cuirass with a double row of pteryges (decorative skirt of leather or fabric strips, from the Greek for feathers). With his left hand, he holds a round shield, which is carved in relief. The style and iconography on this stele date it to the period just after the Peloponnesian War of 404 BC. Funerary reliefs of the time reflected a renewed appreciation for family life following that disastrous war with Sparta.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene 1628

Sarcophagus Panel with the Myth of Endymion and Selene, Roman, c. 210 AD, marble.

On this fragment of a Roman sarcophagus, the mythological story of the love of Selene, the moon goddess, for the beautiful young mortal Endymion provides an allegorical message of hope for the deceased. In the center of the scene, Selene, identified by the crescent moon in her hair, alights from her chariot. Accompanied by Erotes, she approaches the sleeping Endymion. Hypnos, the god of sleep, stands behind Endymion, holding a branch of poppies and pouring sleeping potion over him; by these means, Endymion sleeps eternally, in order to remain with the immortal goddess. The youth's tranquil sleep parallels the peaceful sleep of death. At the far right, the artist showed a later moment in the story. Her evening tryst with the sleeping Endymion over, Selene has remounted her chariot and prepares to fly back to the sky.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene 3675

On the left, an elaborate pastoral scene with a shepherd and his flock does not directly enter the story, it merely serving as a setting. A landscape is represented in several tiers. At the lower left is a shepherd wearing an exomis (a chiton that leaves one shoulder bare). He has a bag slung over his shoulder and leans on a staff with his left hand. With his right hand, he seems to be offering food to the dog sitting in front of him. A small seated child is playing with a bird in a cavelike recess below the shepherd. To the right, the rear half of a sheep stands on the lower border, turned to the right. A ram with curled horns stands on an outcrop of rock above the dog, and to the right of the ram and on a higher level, a goat suckles her kid. In the upper level above the shepherd there are the feet of a goat which was turned toward the left, but which is now missing. The rear part of a cow facing right is worked in relief on the upper wall behind the break, and another partial cow is facing right just below the break. Below and in front of the second cow is a goat looking up at the figure of a local god sitting between two trees next to the vertical break. Just to the right of the vertical break, the lower half of a winged woman (possibly Aura, a goddess of the wind) hurries toward Selene's chariot to hold the rearing horses.

Just to the right of center, Selene is descending from her chariot, which is drawn by two rearing horses. Some struts and a wing below the horses along with other remains just above the bottom border indicate that there used to be a group composed of Eros and Psyche embracing, an unusual representation on Endymion sarcophagi (usually, this position is taken by local gods). There was another Eros standing on the back of the front horse (there are remains of the left foot and wing). The chariot itself is decorated with scrolls, and the wheel hub has a lion's head. The small figure in the chariot below Selene's veil may have been Psyche, although there are no wings the long robe and the arrangement of the hair in a small knot on the forehead suggest this.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene 3678

Selene is emerging from her chariot, just stepping to the ground on her left foot. She is wearing a long chiton with overfold, and holds a billowing veil in both hands. A small crescent moon is in her hair. As it is night, she is accompanied by a small Eros holding a torch and by another small Eros flying downward, headfirst, holding a small garland in both hands and looking back over his right shoulder. Another Eros is raising the garment of the sleeping Endymion, so Selene can see the beauty of his body. Endymion is sleeping in his typical pose, with his right arm raised, the hand behind his head, and with his upper body elevated. Hypnos, the robed, bearded god of sleep with wings in his hair, is pouring poppy liquor from a horn over the sleeping Endymion. In his left hand, Hypnos holds a branch marking the division between scenes (the branch has a large fruit which may represent an enormous poppy plant). In the background is a rocky ledge above the flying Eros, on which a nude god is seated, his right hand held to his head in astonishment (probably Latmos, local god of Mount Latmos where Endymion was sleeping).

A small scene, not usually found on Endymion sarcophagi, is added to the right. The moon goddess Selene (identified by the crescent moon in her hair) is being carried upward in her horse-drawn chariot after the encounter with Endymion. Selene, her head encircled by her veil, is holding a torch in her right hand and the reins in her left. A goddess reclines on the ground in the right corner beneath the horses (she has no identifying attributes, but this may be Gaea (Gaia or Ge), the primeval mother goddess and personification of the Earth, or the Roman Tellus or Terra Mater, the Latin name for Mother Earth).


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene 3843

Detail from the right side of the sarcophagus panel with Endymion and Selene. At top left, the nude local god with his hand raised to his head in astonishment (probably Latmos, local god of Mount Latmos in modern Turkey, where the myth took place). Below him, the head and wings of the Eros flying downward holding a garland. Below him is the Eros raising the garment to reveal the sleeping Endymion, who is shown with his right arm raised and the hand atop his head. Above Endymion is the bearded, robed god of sleep (Hypnos), pouring poppy liquor from a horn over the sleeping Endymion. In his left hand, Hypnos holds a branch marking the division between scenes (the branch has a large fruit which may represent an enormous poppy plant). On the right is Selene leaving the scene, her head encircled by her veil, looking back from her chariot.


Marbury Hall Zeus 3060


Marbury Hall Zeus 1646

Marbury Hall Zeus, Roman, Italy, 1-100 AD, marble.

Portrayed as a powerfully built, bearded man seated on his throne, the King of the Olympian gods originally held his scepter in his left hand and a thunderbolt in his right, the symbols of authority over the natural world. This Roman statue dates to the first century AD, but certain stylistic features in the carving, especially in the face and hair, reveal that it reproduces an earlier Hellenistic Greek statue. The Hellenistic sculpture that this Roman sculpture derived from was made by a school of sculptors based in the city of Pergamon in the 100s BC. It was inspired by the monumental gold and ivory statue of Zeus which was created by the Greek Sculptor Pheidias in the 5th century BC for the temple at Olympia, as was the Enthroned Zeus statuette shown below. The Olympian Zeus by Pheidias was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was praised by ancient writers and widely reproduced.


Marbury Hall Zeus HS4114

This image of the Marbury Hall Zeus was taken at the Getty Villa.

After this statue was found in Tivoli, near Hadrian's Villa (where many statues and much of the marble for the Villa d’Este were acquired), it was placed above the Fountain of the Dragons at the entrance to the Villa d’Este gardens, as documented in a 1570s plate by GianFrancesco Venturini, the only existing documentation of the fountains in their days of glory, (which was reproduced in a 1908 treatise "The Villa d'Este at Tivoli" by Thomas Ashby). The statue was purchased in 1778 and eventually sold to James Hugh Smith Barry, who took it to Belmont Hall to join his spectacular collection of statues. After Barry’s death, the collection was moved to Marbury Hall where it remained until 1932, and from which the Marbury Hall Zeus got its present name.


Leda and the Swan 1476


Leda and the Swan 1481

Leda and the Swan, Roman, 1-100 AD, Pentelic marble.

Found in 1775 in the Villa Magnani on the Palatine Hill in Rome, this is a 1st century AD Roman copy of a 4th century BC Greek sculpture attributed to Timotheus, a rival and contemporary of Scopas of Paros. The contrast of the clinging transparent drapery on Leda's torso, especially over her left breast, and the heavy folds of cloth bunched between her legs characterizes Timotheos' style. The statue both conceals and reveals the female body, a tension often found in 4th century BC sculpture before actual female nudity became acceptable.

Leda, the Queen of Sparta, protects a swan from the predation of the Eagle of Zeus by shielding it with her cloak. As per Euripides (one of the three great tragedians of 5th century BC Athens), Zeus admired Leda and turned himself into a swan, sending his eagle to make Leda protective of him as he dove into her arms. Zeus later seduced Leda on the same night as she lay with her husband Tyndareus, resulting in two pairs of twins: Helen and Polydeuces (Pollux), and Castor and Clytemnestra. Helen and Polydeuces were the offspring of Zeus, and Castor and Clytemnestra were the offspring of Tyndareus. Helen, known later as Helen of Troy, became the wife of King Menelaus of Mycenaean Sparta, whose abduction by Paris led to the Trojan War. Clytemnestra was the wife of King Agamemnon of Mycenae near Argos. Agamamnon and his brother Menelaus were both in exile at the court of Tyndareus. Eventually, the brothers married the two daughters of Tyndareus. Castor and Pollux (the Dioskouri or Gemini Twins) were excellent horsemen who participated in the hunting of the Calydonian Boar and later joined Jason's Argo to hunt the Golden Fleece. Later, Pollux gave half his immortality to his dying brother Castor and they became the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini. (See the Rome section, Roman Forum and Capitoline Hill pages).


Leda and the Swan 3043

In 1951, J. Paul Getty purchased Leda and the Swan from the Lansdowne family country estate at Bowood for the astounding price of 500 pounds ($1540, plus a 10% commission to their broker) at the same time as the Lansdowne Herakles. The Lansdowne Leda is an outstanding representative of a popular sculptural style in early Imperial Rome. More than two dozen copies of this statue survive, attesting to the theme's popularity among the Romans.


Leda and the Swan 3748

A close detail shot of the 1st century Roman Pentelic marble Lansdowne Leda and the Swan.

Leda and the Swan has been extensively restored. Ancient restorations included work on Leda's face and hair. 18th century restorations included both arms and major portions of the raised cloak, the lower drapery and the neck of the Swan. The statue was de-restored and reconstructed/restored in 1997 under Getty conservators, including rebuilding the right thumb and big toe.


Mazarin Venus 3063


Mazarin Venus HS9141

Statue of Venus (the Mazarin Venus), Roman, Rome, 100-200 AD, marble.

Venus, the goddess of love, stands nude, grasping a piece of cloth around her hips. The dolphin at her feet supports the figure and alludes to the goddess's birth from the sea. This depiction of Venus ultimately derived from an extremely popular Greek statue created by the sculptor Praxiteles about 350 BC, the Aphrodite of Knidos (aka the Venus Pudica, or modest Venus), the first full-scale female nude in Greek sculpture. Praxiteles' statue was so popular that, beginning around 100 BC, many artists created variations on his theme of the naked Venus.

This statue is a Roman reproduction of one of those Hellenistic variants. In 1509 it was discovered in Rome, where it contributed to the Renaissance revival of the Classical tradition. Formerly in the Cook Collection in England, scholars once believed that this statue was owned by Cardinal Mazarin, advisor to Louis XIV, king of France. Although this is unlikely, the statue is still known to many as the Mazarin Venus. It was bought by J. Paul Getty in 1954 as the first antiquity acquired specifically for his new museum.


Mazarin Venus 2107

According to Pliny, Praxiteles received a commission for a statue of the goddess Aphrodite from the citizens of Kos (a Greek Dodecanese island near the coast of the region of Caria, just west of modern Turkey). Praxiteles created two versions, one fully draped and the other completely nude. The shocked citizens of Kos rejected the nude sculpture and accepted the draped version. The design and appearance of the draped sculpture is unknown as it did not survive, nor did it appear to have merited attention as there were no surviving descriptions. The rejected nude was purchased by citizens from Knidos (an ancient Greek city in the region of Caria, very close to Kos), and set up in an open air temple which allowed the sculpture to be viewed from all sides. The Aphrodite of Knidos rapidly became one of the most famous works of Praxiteles, who allegedly used his lover, the famous 4th century BC courtesan Phryne, as a model for the statue (according to the ancient gossip).

During its long history, the statue has been heavily damaged. The breasts, as well as parts of the cloth, arms, and dolphin, are restored. The head probably belonged to another ancient statue. Marks on the back of the statue have been interpreted as gunshot wounds suffered during the French Revolution, although this story may be based more in romance than in fact.


Mazarin Venus 3727

The original Aphrodite of Knidos, from which this statue derived, became a tourist attraction for Knidos in spite of being a cult image. King Nicomedes I of Bithynia came from far away in the northeast of Asia Minor to see the statue, and was so enthralled that he offered to pay off the enormous debts of the city of Knidos in exchange for the statue, but the Knidians rejected his offer. The sculpture was so strongly associated with Knidos that its likeness was on coins. The original has not survived, but it was one of the most widely copied statues in the ancient world, with direct copies and derivatives like the Mazarin Venus. Probably the most faithful replica is the Colonna Venus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, part of the collections of the Vatican Museums.


Lansdowne Herakles 1503


Lansdowne Herakles 1507

The Lansdowne Herakles, Roman, c. 125 AD, marble.

The Lansdowne Herakles was one of J. Paul Getty’s most prized possessions, and was his inspiration for redesigning the the original museum at Pacific Palisades as a Roman Villa. Purchased in 1792 by William Petty, First Marquess of Lansdowne, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain at the end of the Revolutionary War, the statue resided at Lansdowne House until the 1930s, when it was moved to their country estate. In 1951, J. Paul Getty purchased this statue along with Leda and the Swan, acquiring the Herakles for the spectacularly low price of $18,500.

Unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli in 1790, this Roman copy combines elements of several different styles. The head is adorned with a simple fillet, and most scholars consider it to be a Hadrianic copy of a 4th century BC Greek original associated with the style of Skopas (395-350 BC), a successor of the Classical sculptor Polykleitos and a contemporary of Praxiteles and Lysippos. He is most famous for his lost bronze statue of Meleager, the copper Aphrodite, and the head of Hygieia. Skopas sculpted parts of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus including the reliefs, and was one of the first Greek sculptors to introduce powerful emotional expressions in the faces of his sculptures. Skopas is considered to be one of the three greatest sculptors of his age. The pose of the Lansdowne Herakles is more in the style of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (spear-bearer), which was an early example of contrapposto (standing with the weight on one foot, with the shoulders and arms twisted off-axis). The Doryphoros was a 5th century (c. 440 BC) bronze which has been lost, but there are many Roman copies of varying quality. The pose of the Lansdown Herakles is nearly identical, although the head is turned to the left rather than the right, and there is a clear similarity.


Lansdowne Herakles 1639-3659

The pose of the head, which is turned partially towards the left looking alertly over the raised club, contrasts with the Golden Age pose, creating tension along with an elegance and grace more characteristic of 4th century BC sculpture. The legs are longer than 5th c. sculptures of this type, and the neck, shoulders and torso are shorter and more massive. Many scholars have linked the Lansdowne Herakles with Skopas, a master of the heroic sculpture and pathos. After excavation of the Temple of Athena Alea, similarities were noted between pedimental heads and the Herakles. Skopas was the temple architect, and made the cult sculptures and other similar works. There have been other attributions for the original artist, and it is still a mystery.


Lansdowne Herakles 1516


Lansdowne Herakles 3733

When the statue was originally unearthed, it was missing its left arm, the tip of its nose, the left calf, and other small parts such as fingers and thumbs, etc. Restorations were completed at that time, most likely by Carlo Albacini (a pupil of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, see the bust of Caracalla) who was the principal restorer for Thomas Jenkins, the art dealer and banker for the English on the Grand Tour in Rome who bought the fragments soon after they were unearthed and sold the restored sculpture to Lord Lansdowne. In the late 1970s, it was determined that the iron rods used in this restoration were developing rust and there was risk of splitting the marble, so the restorations were removed along with the metal pins, and the 18th century restorations were replaced with epoxy casts. These 18th century restorations were reintegrated with the sculpture in the 1990s.


Lansdowne Herakles 1643c


Lansdowne Herakles 3742c

Detail of the head of the Lansdowne Herakles. The head is somewhat shorter and smaller than Golden Age
sculptures, although the brow and forehead, temples, cheeks and the bridge of the nose are somewhat wider,
and the chin is more pointed, making the overall presentation quite different from typical Golden Age sculptures.


Lansdowne Herakles 2146c

The Lansdowne Herakles, which J. Paul Getty considered to be the most important antiquity in his museum.


Hercules HS3821

Hercules, Roman, 100-200 AD, marble and pigment.

The greatest of the Greek heroes, Herakles was enthusiastically adopted by the Romans, who called him Hercules. Although this statue has been damaged over time, the standard attributes of the hero (the skin of the Nemean Lion and the club) identify him. In this sculpture, Hercules also wears a wreath of white poplar leaves and a fillet (ribbon) in his hair, with the ends of the fillet trailing over his shoulders. The fillet marks him as an athletic victor, and white poplar was associated with the Olympic Games, which Herakles was credited with founding in the honor of his father Zeus (king of the gods). According to tradition, Herakles imported white poplar from northwestern Greece, and it was the only wood used to fuel the altars at Olympia. Statues like this were extremely popular, commonly appearing in Greek and Roman gymnasiums where athletes trained.

This sculpture and the one below were taken at the Getty Villa.


Satyr Pouring Wine HS3873

Satyr Pouring Wine, Roman, 1st century AD, marble.

The pointed animal-like ears of this youth identify him as a satyr, companion of Dionysos (or Bacchus), the god of wine. Satyrs were part-human, part-goat (or part-horse, depending on whether the art is Roman or Greek). Found near Castel Gandolfo, Italy at the site of an ancient villa belonging to Emperor Domitian in 1657, this is a 1st century Roman copy of a celebrated bronze statue by the famed 4th century BC Greek sculptor Praxiteles (who created the first large-scale depiction of a satyr in about 370 BC). It was one of four nearly identical statues depicting a young satyr holding a pitcher of wine in his raised right hand, pouring the wine into a cup in his left hand. When the statues were found, the other three were in a better state of preservation. This satyr was missing its head, as well as the pitcher in its raised right hand and the left hand and cup. A copy was made of one of the other satyr sculpture's heads to restore this statue in the late 17th century (probably restored by Ercole Boselli).

The statue was acquired by Prince Agostino Chigi in Rome, where it remained until the Chigi Collection was purchased in 1728 by Frederick Augustus I, King of Poland. Along with the rest of the collection, it then went to Dresden for display. After Germany reunited, restitution was made to the Royal Saxon family in 1999, and this statue was returned among other works of art. The family decided to sell some of the art collection, and this statue was purchased by the Getty.


Poet as Orpheus with Two Sirens 1626

Poet as Orpheus with Two Sirens, Greek, Taras, South Italy, c. 350-300 BC, terracotta and pigment.

A seated man is flanked by sirens, creatures part bird and part woman, in this nearly life-size terracotta group. In Greek mythology, the singing of the sirens lured sailors to their deaths; thus the creatures have general funerary connotations. The Sirens, with bird legs and feet, stand on a rock-like base, representing their islands. One Siren, her chin on her hand, appears to be listening, while the other sings, her lips parted and her arms in a theatrical pose. The seated man is also a singer, as is shown by his open mouth, the plektron in his right hand, and the now-missing lyre or harp which he once cradled in his left arm.

His precise identity is uncertain. He is often identified as Orpheus, who was famous for his singing and music, and whose cult was widespread in the south of Italy, in the area where the Sirens were supposedly luring mariners to their deaths,  but in the art of this period, Orpheus is usually shown wearing a specific Eastern costume, which is not seen on this sculpture. Sirens are often found in funerary contexts as figures who sing to mourn the dead, or help to fulfill the promise of life after death. It is possible that this man may just be an ordinary mortal, perhaps the deceased, in the guise of a poet or singer.


Poet as Orpheus 1492


Poet as Orpheus 3731

Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet and prophet in ancient Thracian myths (Thrace was north-east of Greece and north of the Kingdom of Macedon, the first Greek colonies in Thrace were founded in the 8th century BC). The major stories about Orpheus (Orphei or Arpha) had him playing a harp (the name for the instrument harp was derived from the latter version of his name), but some myths had him playing a lyre. He was supposedly able to charm all living things (and even stones) with his music, and his attempt to retrieve his wife Eurydice (either an Oak nymph or a daughter of Apollo) from the underworld was almost successful as he was able to charm Hades and Persephone with his music, but he was not supposed to look at her until she left the underworld. He walked in front and didn't look back until he was out, but when he did, she was just behind the threshold, and she vanished back to the underworld. Lots of other stories exist, but the one relevant to the sculpture is from the story of Jason and the Argonauts, and the Quest for the Golden Fleece.


Poet as Orpheus 3642

According to myth, the half-human, half-bird Sirens used their sweet, seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths on the rocky shore of their islands (the Sirenum Scopuli) somewhere in the south of Italy, sometimes identified as Anthemossa in other versions of the myth. These islands have also sometimes been identified as Ischia, Procida and Capri in the Tyrhennian Sea at the Gulf of Naples, near the ankle of the boot of Italy. Jason, leader of the Argonauts, had been warned by Chiron (the centaur and teacher who was later killed by Herakles in exchange for Zeus allowing Herakles to save Prometheus and acquire Fire for humanity) that the singer and poet Orpheus would be necessary for his return journey. When Orpheus heard the Sirens, he took out his lyre, playing music and singing so beautifully that he drowned out the bewitching voices of the Sirens.

Originally brightly painted, this large-scale terracotta sculpture is characteristic of the Greek colonies in South Italy. With its funerary imagery, the group may have decorated a tomb. Although terracotta sculpture is also found in mainland Greece, artists in the Greek colonies in South Italy used this medium with greater frequency and on a larger scale because there were few sources of good stone suitable for sculpting.


Venus Genetrix 3636


Venus Genetrix 3746

Venus Genetrix, Roman, 100-200 AD, marble.

This slightly less than life-size statue depicts Aphrodite (goddess of love) in her aspect as a mother in the type known as Venus Genetrix, the Frejus-type, after the best existing copy of the Greek original, found at the Forum Julii in Frejus in 1650 and displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Greek original was a lost bronze of Aphrodite by the sculptor Callimachus, dressed in a light but clinging chiton or peplos, lowered on the left shoulder to reveal her breast and hanging in a sheer, decoratively carved face to reveal her body beneath. In her left hand she held the apple she won in the Judgement of Paris, her right hand was lifted to cover her head. All surviving marble copies are derived from this lost bronze from about 410 BC, whose composition was frontal. In 46 BC, a statue of Venus Genetrix by Arkesilaos (a Greek sculptor referred to only by Pliny as one of the finest of his age) was erected by Julius Caesar in the temple dedicated to the goddess in his Forum Julii (see the Rome section). This sculpture is also now lost, but numerous Roman copies were made (the best of which is the Aphrodite of Frejus). This statue is also one of those copies, made by an accomplished sculptor, possibly Kallimachos or Alkamenes.

This statue was likely displayed at a private villa, and the relatively less-finished
rear of the figure indicates that the sculpture was most likely mounted in a niche.


Marcus Aurelius 1563

Marcus Aurelius, Roman 1st c. AD body, 2nd c. AD head,
Collaborative restoration, Getty and Pergamon Museums.


Marcus Aurelius 3050c

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. In a collaborative conservation between the Pergamon Museum and the Getty Museum, conservators disassembled  and reassembled the statue, which is composed of approximately 40 fragments of four different types of marble. Some of the fragments were original, others were carved during different restoration campaigns of the 18th and 19th centuries. The statue was in danger of collapsing due to the joints between fragments loosening over time. Conservators then applied modern synthetic fill and in-painted to visually unify the statue.

In 1998, the J. Paul Getty Museum began a collaborative project with the Pergamon Museum in Berlin to conserve an important, life-size, ancient sculpture in their collection. The statue, a partially preserved 1st century body with a 2nd century head of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, originally came from the 17th century collection of the Villa Montalto Negroni in Rome, Italy.

In 1997, the department of antiquities conservation at the Getty had just finished the conservation of the Lansdowne Herakles in the Getty collection. During the treatment of the Herakles, conservators returned a number of important 18th century restorations to the sculpture, which had been removed during a cleaning and de-restoration campaign in the 1970s. The reinstatement of earlier restorations to the Lansdowne Herakles testified to the importance of historic interventions and played a significant role in shaping the collaborative effort with the Pergamon Museum. The conservation of the Marcus Aurelius statue required two years to complete. Prior to its return to the Pergamon, it went on view at the Getty Center in an exhibition.

Project conservators applied and further developed reassembly techniques which originated in the department of antiquities conservation. Emphasis was placed on the structural stability of the statue by employing sound mechanisms for reassembly using highly reversible adhesives and stable, inert materials. A mechanical approach to reassembly, now referred to as the "zone system," was executed to reassemble the Marcus Aurelius statue. This design and application offered a safe method of mechanically attaching and reattaching selected groups of smaller fragments which had already been assembled, and allowed for the safe and easy disassembly of the sculpture in the future, with minimum impact on the fabric of the sculpture.


Marcus Aurelius 3053c


Marcus Aurelius 3090c

Marcus Aurelius is shown wearing a ceremonial lorica musculata (muscle cuirass) over a tunic covered with long leather straps, with a paludamentum (originally a cloak or cape that was worn by military commanders, fastened by a fibula at the shoulder, which after the reign of Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD) was restricted to use by the Emperor) wrapped around his raised left arm.

Marcus Aurelius was considered to be one of the most important Stoic philosophers, and he was entitled to wear purple garments as emperor, thus he was known as the philosopher in purple. His reign from 161-180 AD was thought to mark a Golden Age of Rome, and he is considered the last of the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius), coined by Niccolò Machiavelli in 1503. He was the son of Marcus Annius Verus III, a Roman praetor from a distinguished political family (brother to Faustina the Elder, wife of Antoninus Pius).

When Hadrian was convalescing in his Villa at Tivoli after nearly dying from a haemorrhage, he adopted and selected Lucius Ceionius Commodus as his heir, who changed his name to Lucius Aelius Caesar as part of the adoption, but Aelius himself died of a haemorrhage just before making a speech to the Senate a year later. Later that month, Hadrian selected Aurelius Antoninus as his new successor, and adopted him a month later. as part of Hadrian's terms, Antoninus, who later became Emperor Antoninus Pius, adopted Marcus and Lucius Verus (son of Aelius).

After Hadrian's death in 138, when Antoninus Pius became Emperor, Marcus was betrothed to Faustina the Younger (Antoninus' youngest daughter, about 9 at the time), and began to ascend the ranks as he was prepared to become the heir apparent. Marcus married Faustina in 145 (she was about 17 then, he was 24). When Antoninus Pius died in 161, Marcus and Lucius Verus ruled as co-Emperors until Verus died in 169, from which time Marcus Aurelius ruled alone until his death in the city of Vindobona (Vienna) in 180 AD, after which he was immediately deified and his ashes were returned to Rome, where they rested in Hadrian's Mausoleum (Castel Sant'Angelo) until the Visigoth sack of Rome in 410.


Marcus Aurelius Lorica

Detail of the lorica (of the type known as a muscle cuirass) depicted in the statue of Marcus Aurelius. This cuirass is a ceremonial Imperial lorica, designed to mimic an idealized physique which appeared in late Archaic Greece and became widespread by the Hellenistic period (after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC). It would have been made of bronze and decorated with gold and silver. This type of cuirass was worn almost exclusively by emperors and top-ranking military leaders as a symbol of Roman might and sovereignty, and was probably reserved for military reviews and parades. The muscle cuirasses which were worn in combat were generally unadorned or with minimal decoration and were worn by senior officers.

The Gorgoneion is the head of the Gorgon Medusa, an attribute of Minerva. Medusa, who had beautiful hair among other charms, had been seduced by Neptune in the Temple of Minerva. The violation of the sanctity of the temple provoked Minerva to change her hair, which had inspired Neptune, into serpents and make her face terrible to behold (looking directly at Medusa would turn a person to stone). Minerva had given Perseus a polished shield to look at Medusa in while he cut her head off with Jupiter's adamantine Harpe (sword with a diamond edge), and used her head as a weapon until giving it to Minerva to place on her shield. Change Minerva to Athena, Jupiter to Zeus, and Neptune to Poseidon for the original Greek names. The Gorgoneion was said to protect the wearer in battle. The Victories Burning Incense on a long-stemmed incense stand when mounted on a cuirass was a personification of Victory that was an honor normally reserved for gods and heroes.

The overlapping lappet plates covering the waist area were covered with metal figures (left to right): the Head of a Lynx (referring to Roman military campaigns in the East); Bearded Mask (a River God, designed to ward off Evil); an Eagle (attribute of Jupiter, king of the gods and symbol of the Roman Empire); a Gorgoneion in the center (to protect the obvious target); a reversed Eagle; another Bearded Mask; and finally, around his hip at right, a Head of a Lion (a traditional symbol of power).

One of the most widely recognized of the Roman lorica was the muscle cuirass (thorax statios in Greek, lorica musculata in colloquial Latin). This type of cuirass was molded on the contours of the muscles of the male chest which were reproduced in an idealized manner, and was constructed from iron or bronze, consisting of a high-waisted or hip length breastplate. Shoulder straps hinged to the edges of the back plate, with their forward extremities tied down to rings on the breast. These plates had side fastenings with perhaps two hinges or a pair of rings joined by ties providing for the soldier's left and right flanks.


Marcus Aurelius 3058c

The Marcus Aurelius statue from the Pergamon Museum was taken apart in Berlin and transported in several pieces to the Getty Museum, where it was taken further apart. The pieces were tented and an aerosol of solvents were used to soften shellac used by previous restorers during at least three previous restoration campaigns in the 18th and 19th centuries. Then, some of the iron pins from earlier restorations were cut, and molten iron which was used to affix some of these pins was removed, taking the statue down to its 40 constituent primary and exterior fragments. Stains on the marble were carefully cleaned, and special fittings were made of aluminum and mounted in existing holes for later reassembly. Once cleaned, the statue was reassembled using reversible adhesives, joinery was filled with a modern synthetic, and in-painting was done with a small brush to blend the white fill into the gray stone. The reconstruction is designed to be easily disassembled in the future, and it uses stable, inert materials which will not damage the statue.


Etruscan Statuette dedicated to Lur 3740


Two Roman Men Applique 3739

Statuette Inscribed with a Dedication to the God Lur, Etruscan, 300-280 BC, bronze.

Cast hollow over a partial core with nipples inlaid in copper, this bronze Etruscan statuette is barefoot and wears a short, semicircular mantle. The large head is more mature than the youthful body, which is posed with its weight on the left foot with the right leg relaxed and placed slightly to the side, imparting an S-shaped curve to the torso. Both arms are bent, with both large hands spread in a gesture of prayer. The facial expression, arrangment of the hair over the forehead, and twist of the head are inspired by portraits of Alexander the Great, who had died about a generation before the casting of this statue. The votive description on the mantle dedicates the statuette to Lur from Vel Matunas, a South Etruscan prince who apparently dedicated this statue of himself to the Fanum Voltumnae, the federal sanctuary of the 12 Etruscan cities near Orvieto.

Applique with Two Men, Roman, 50-75 AD, bronze

Two men wearing togas and shoes identifying them as members of the upper class turn to look at something occurring to their right. The figures are clearly of different ages and show individualized, portrait-like features, making it probable that they were recognizable people. The older man carries a scroll, probably marking him as a priest, and the larger scene may have been some kind of sacrifice to the gods. Stylistic features of the hairstyles and clothing date the relief to the period of the Emperor Nero. The break on the piece to the right indicates that this is the remains of what was once a larger bronze relief frieze. It was found with the Statuette of a Goddess (probably Ceres) and the Statuette of Roma or Virtus (the links lead to images from the Getty Villa Sculptures page). These pieces may have all formed a group of relief sculpture serving as an applique decorating the same object. An applique is an ornament or device which is applied to another object or surface, in this case probably a chariot or a piece of furniture.


Bust of a Woman 2148


Bust of a Woman 2168

Bust of a Woman, Roman, Rome, 150-160 AD, marble.

This elegant portrait bust is of an unidentified Roman woman, carved from a single superbly finished block of Carrara marble. Her hairstyle copies one used by Empress Faustina, and the highly polished surface is consistent with an Antonine creation date. The undulating waves of hair surrounding the face were typical of portraits of her daughter, Faustina the Younger, who married Marcus Aurelius in 145 AD. The woman wears a stola (a loose-fitting tunic) fastened by a brooch on the right shoulder and a palla (a rectangular shawl), and the woman appears to be of mature years yet she displays no signs of aging. Roman portraits of women tended to be more idealized and less individualized than those of men. Roman portraits of women were often focused more on depicting the latest fashions and concepts of beauty than actual features of the subject.


Bust of a Woman 3741

A closeup of the Portrait Bust of a Woman, Roman, 150-160 AD.
Note the fine detail of the hair and the highly polished surface of the marble.


Bust of a Woman Sabina HS5037

Bust of a Woman, Roman, c. 130 AD, marble.

J. Paul Getty was especially entranced by this portrait, long believed to represent Sabina (83-137 AD), who was the wife of the Emperor Hadrian. Distinctive features such as the protruding ears make this identification doubtful. Her hair is fastened in a loose bun typically worn by Greek goddesses. This gives the anonymous sitter the appearance of Classical statuary, a conceit enhanced by the diadem in the shape of a stephane, a crown-like headpiece shaped like a metal arc that extended down behind the ears, often worn by ancient Greek and Roman aristocrats to avoid damaging their hairstyle with a hat.


Bust of a Woman Sabina HS5051


Bust of a Woman Sabina HS5064

This bust is considered by many to be an masterpiece of ancient sculpture. The quality and effect induced an archaeologist (who probably never saw the piece in person) to question its authenticity. There are abundant traces of concretions which provide physical proof of authenticity, and the style and carving place it at the end of Hadrian's reign about 130 AD. The diadem, in the style of a stephane, has a delicate tendril ornamentation typical of representations of goddesses.


Herm of Hermes HS3718


Julia Titi 1638

Herm of Hermes (detail of head), Roman, 50-100 AD, marble.

A Herm (Herma) is a sculpture of a head (and sometimes a torso) atop a plain, generally square lower pillar on which genitalia are sometimes carved. The form originated in ancient Greece when divinities were worshipped at crossroads and at the borders of land. They started out as a pile of stones, eventually adding a head and phallus to the column, which became square in cross-section (the number four was sacred to Hermes). Before his role as a transitional god, protector of merchants and travelers, Hermes was a phallic god associated with fertility, luck, roads and borders. Hermes name derives from the herma.

This Roman sculpture is a copy of a famous herm called the Hermes Propylaeus (Propylaea = monumental gateway), which was carved by the Greek sculptor Alkamenes in the 5th century BC and located at the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Alkamenes carved the herm in an Archaistic style, combining contemporary facial features with an Archaic (6th c. BC) beard and hairstyle. Herms were often carved in an Archaistic style to give them an air of ancient sanctity. During Roman times, the herm lost its religious significance and became a garden and courtyard ornament.

Head of Julia Titi, Roman, Italy, c. 90 AD, marble and pigment.

Julia Titi, daughter of the Flavian Emperor Titus from his second marriage to Marcia Furnilla, daughter of the Roman Senator Quintus Marcius Barea Sura (who was a friend of Emperor Vespasian, Titus' father... connections were important in those days too, although Titus and Marcia divorced a year after Julia was born due to Marcia's family's links to a failed conspiracy against Nero). Julia died at the age of 27 (from a rumored forced abortion, although that is unlikely). This portrait shows her as she looked at about that time. Julia is reflected in historical sources as a rather outspoken and liberated woman for the time. She was offered in marriage to her uncle Domitian (at the tender age of six), who refused because of an infatuation with Domitia Longina (Vespasian convinced her husband to divorce Domitia so he could marry her). Later, Julia married her second paternal cousin. By then, Domitian had seduced her. When both Titus and her husband died, Julia moved in with Vespasian openly. She received the honor of having her image struck on coins, which are the identification source for her sculptural portraits. This head does not perfectly match the portraits on the coins, and the quality of the sculpture is far superior to most Imperial portraits, but the ID is apparently secure. This may have been a posthumous portrait, as Julia Titi died in 91 AD.


Julia Titi 3047

Purchased by J. Paul Getty in 1955 for the staggeringly low sum of $3300, this intricately carved portrait head of Flavia Julia Titi depicts the daughter of Emperor Titus with an elaborate curled, superbly rendered hairstyle, deeply drilled into the marble. Hours must have been spent with a hairdresser to create this coiffure. The sculptor created exceptional contrast between the hair and the smoothly modeled forehead and face. The irises and pupils were originally painted, as were the lips and hair. Some pigment is still visible in the hair.

Portraits of Imperial women set fashions throughout the Roman Empire. A haristyle worn by an Empress or Princess would soon show up in portraits of other women in the Court, and then spread throughout Roman society. Elaborately curled hairstyles like this became highly fashionable during the Flavian period.


Head of a Bearded Man 1630


Head of a Bearded Man 3045

Portrait Head of a Bearded Man, Hellenistic Greek, 160-150 BC, marble.

This head with its short beard, the intense gaze and the careful sculpting of cheeks, nose and forehead must have been a portrait in the category of portraiture of Hellenistic rulers which arose after the death of Alexander the Great. Larger than life sculpted portraits like these were used as propaganda to legitimize the ruler and to emphasize the dynastic connections. They were often highly idealized images with an intentional similarity of appearance, but the bump in the bridge of the nose and the square jaw of this portrait captured this man's individuality.

The precisely modeled diagonal knots of muscle over his eyebrows force the upper part of his forehead into deep, parallel, double arched furrows. His eyebrows are modeled in irregular ridges, along which individual hairs are indicated with curving, incised strokes. His rather small eyes are wide open and set in deep sockets with distinctly modeled lids. The skin below his eyes shows an aged leathery character, and there are distinct frown lines at the root of his nose. The precise portrayal of the beard, hair and mustache and the exquisitely modeled lips are all etched with light incised strokes, with an incised inner line around the outer contours of the mouth and a very fine drilled channel between the lips. The ear is exceptionally well modeled and the ear canal is indicated with a round hole, a detail rare in ancient sculpture. The nostrils are deeply drilled. This work was obviously done by a highly accomplished sculptor practiced in the creation of colossal statuary. It is a visually striking piece.

This head is all that remains of a larger than life-size, full-length portrait statue which was most likely a public monument rather than a private commission. The head was broken in two pieces in antiquity and the top of the head was lost, but the head shows no signs of weathering. Its subtly polished surface is in such pristine condition that the smallest engraved details, and even the traces of preliminary finishing with a rasp, are still clearly visible. The piece is made of translucent, crystalline marble, visually similar to that used for many sculptures in Pergamon. Since the figure does not wear a diadem, he was not a ruler when the statue was erected, but the scale and regal bearing suggest that he was a member of a royal family, perhaps of Pergamon.


Licinius Nepos 1635


Licinius Nepos 3743

Portrait of L. Licinius Nepos, Roman, c. 1 - 25 AD, marble.

An inscription identifies the stern-faced man with strong features and a receding hairline portrayed on this Roman bust as L. Licinius Nepos. The bust was made for display in a family tomb. This placement is confirmed by the inscription, "This is L. Licinius Nepos who made this little house [for his ashes]".

L. Licinius Nepos was a tradesperson and the builder of the tomb. A travertine block found near Porta Pinciana outside Rome in 1756--and originally placed inside the same tomb as the portrait bust--has an extended funerary inscription that confirms his role. The back of the head was made from a separate piece of marble and is now lost. Two attachment holes are visible on the roughly finished surface of the large portion, as well as the remains of an iron dowel in one of them.


Licinius Nepos 2152


Licinius Nepos 2159

When this bust was acquired by the museum in 1985, it was dated at about 100 AD and was assumed to have been a portrait of Lucius Licinius Nepos, a praetor (magistrate) under Trajan in the early 100s who was a contemporary colleague as praetor with the young Hadrian, and later president of the Centumviral Court. Pliny described him as so brave and strong that he was unafraid to punish Senators. I can find no information regarding the recent re-dating of the bust and assignation of the new description of the individual as a tradesman.


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