The Getty Sculptures subsection contains nearly 200 images of sculptures taken at the
Getty Center, separated into three pages: Ancient, Modern and Bronze. This Overview
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Getty Villa Index

Ancient Sculptures and Statuettes      Funerary and Decorative Art         


Aphrodite Cult Statue 1497

Cult Statue of a Goddess, 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, Hera or Persephone), made of Sicilian limestone and Parian marble which was acquired by the Getty in 1988 and returned to Italy in 2010 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 Cult Statue of a Goddess was originally purchased by the Getty in 1988 for $18 million. Often identified with Aphrodite, 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.


Tyche 3647

Tyche (goddess of good fortune), 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. 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.

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.


Head of a Bearded Man 1630


Bust of a Woman Sabina HS5064

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.

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.

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. This bust is considered by many to be an masterpiece of ancient sculpture.


Mazarin Venus HS9141


Venus Genetrix 3746

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. Indeed 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.

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).

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.


Lansdowne Herakles 2146c

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 (or Scopas, 395-350 BC), a successor of the Classical sculptor Polykleitos who worked with Praxiteles and Lysippos. 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.


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.


Anne de Vermenoux Houdon 1475 LG
(1333 x 2100)

Madame Paul-Louis Girardot de Vermenoux, nee Anne-Germaine Larrivee (1739-1783)
Jean-Antoine Houdon (signed 1777), marble, on loan for exhibition from the Huntington Library.

Carved by the most celebrated portrait sculptor of his time. Houdon depicts Anne-Germaine Larrivee
in an unguarded moment, turned to her right with an affectionate smile on her lips. She wears a delicate
lace-trimmed garment and a cloak which wraps both her body and the pedestal on which the bust stands.
This exquisite sculpture was carved by Houdon from a single massive block of fine-grained white marble.

Shrouded in mystery since its first appearance in the Salon de Paris in 1777, this sculpture had been confused with a Houdon portrait of Baroness de la Houze by the time it was bought by Henry Huntington in 1927, and it was displayed under that name until 2003, when the sculpture was loaned to the Getty Museum for an exhibition of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s work. It was identified by Anne Poulet, who was the curator for the Houdon exhibition at the Getty and is now director of the Frick Collection in New York. She recognized it from a sketch in an original catalog of the 1777 Salon while preparing the exhibition catalog.


Minerva Nollekens 2206


Apollo Canova 1661

Minerva, Joseph Nollekens, British, 1775, white Carrara marble.

Goddess of wisdom and war, the stately Minerva stands like a majestic column as she raises her helmet. Along with Juno and Venus, Minerva formed part of a Judgment of Paris group. At her side rests a large shield, on which is carved the frightening head of Medusa, used to ward off enemies. Her body is composed in a spiral and the sculpture is carved in the round, which provides interesting views from several different angles.

Apollo Crowning Himself, Antonio Canova, Italian, 1781, marble.

Antonio Canova was considered the greatest Neoclassical sculptor from the 1790s until his death in 1822, and was the most famous European artist of his time. This statuette of Apollo was Canova's first Roman work in marble and marked a crucial turning point in his career. Inspired by his first-hand study of ancient statues, Apollo exemplified the graceful style and idealized beauty that would become Canova's trademarks for the next forty years.


Caracalla Cavaceppi 1660

Bust of Emperor Caracalla, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, Italian, Rome, c. 1750-1770, marble.

Caracalla, one of the most bold and brutal Roman emperors, ruled from 211-217 AD. He murdered his brother in his ascent to sole power and later was himself assassinated. In this bust, he wears armor and a military commander’s cloak. Tilting his head down and turning it to the left, he focuses on something which apparently does not meet with his approval. He flares his nostrils and furrows his brow, movements perhaps intended to suggest his ferociousness.

In the 1700s, Caracalla's likeness was known from a bust in the Farnese collection in Rome (then Naples) believed to date from the 200s. Bartolomeo Cavaceppi drew on this famous prototype for his marble bust of Caracalla. Carved during a period in which collectors bought sculptures all' antica, this bust was probably intended for an English collector's Neoclassical gallery. Cavaceppi was best known for his restorations of antique sculpture rather than for his rare original works, such as this one. He demonstrated his familiarity with classicism through his skillful drillwork in the antique manner, which is seen in the handling of Caracalla's beard and hair. This bust is one of Cavaceppi's rare signed works.


Maria Cerri Capranica Algardi HS9249


Madame Recamier Chinard 1597

Bust of Maria Cerri Capranica, attributed to Alessandro Algardi, Italian, c. 1640, marble.

Befitting a young noblewoman, Maria Cerri Capranica is dressed in a velvet gown with an elaborate lace collar. Her elegant outfit is complemented by an array of jewelry--a long strand of pearls, a necklace set with precious stones, a pendant with a small relief of the Holy Family, and pearl drop earrings. The sitter was clearly a woman of status and affluence, and the sculptor depicted her with a powerful and distinctive psychological presence.

The fine details of the sitter's costume, jewelry, and hairstyle display a true mastery of marble carving. Maria Cerri's intricate coiffure--a mass of curls ornamented with loops of satiny ribbon--falls gracefully around her face. Algardi sculpted the delicate lace mantle in low relief with subtle contours that reveal how the garment fell around the sitter's shoulders. The strand of pearls, which weaves across the sitter's chest and around her sash, is carved entirely in the round. The attention given to her lace and jewelry makes this as much a portrait of her accessories as of the subject herself.

Bust of Madame Recamier, Joseph Chinard, French, c. 1801-1802, terracotta.

Coyly looking down, Madame Recamier holds a veil across her chest. The sheath both demurely conceals and reveals her breasts. Sculptor Joseph Chinard cleverly compensated for the artificiality of the bust form by elongating the bust to mid-torso and covering the transition between the body and pedestal with drapery, creating a work of surprising naturalism. The softly modeled limbs and the slight twists of her head and shoulders suggest a living presence while the upswept hairstyle suggests Recamier's elegance.

Juliette Récamier was celebrated in French Empire society for her beauty and love affairs. Married at fifteen to a wealthy lawyer whowas rumored to have been her natural father, she had a loveless, unconsummated marriage and carried on numerous flagrant affairs, the most celebrated with the Prussian Prince Augustus, the youngest brother of King Frederick II. In her Parisian townhouse, she held a fashionable literary salon frequented by the political and educated elite. Some of the most accomplished portraitists of the era sculpted, drew, and painted her image. Chinard's terracotta bust, considered one of the most successful at capturing her spirit and beauty, was produced in several different versions in both clay and marble.


Vexed Man Messerschmidt HS9639

The Vexed Man, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, German, Austria, 1771-1783, alabaster.

The Vexed Man is one of a series of 69 "character heads" made by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, an eighteenth century German sculptor active in Austria. Messerschmidt sculpted them during the last thirteen years of his life, while apparently suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness.

Resembling the ventriloquist Jeff Dunham’s puppet Walter, the Vexed Man by Messerschmidt  portrays a middle-aged man with a sour expression, which seems to fall somewhere between a grimace and a scowl. The most telling aspect may be the furrowed brow above squinting eyes and a scrunched nose. But natural cracks in the bust's alabaster surface seem to echo the topography of his skin, both softened by age yet hardened by the extreme expression. The man's receding hairline, wrinkles, and sagging jawline contrast with tensed cheek and neck muscles. Although the character seems to express irritation and annoyance, it is not certain whether Messerschmidt intended that interpretation, because he did not give the bust a title.


The Modern Sculpture page contains 70 images of Neoclassical, Baroque and Modern sculptures taken at
the Getty Center, plus a Houdon from the Huntington Library which was shown in a Houdon Exhibition and
the Tivoli-type bust of Caracalla from the British Museum, shown in comparison with the Cavaceppi bust.


Abduction of Helen Susini 3855

The Abduction of Helen by Paris, Giovanni Francesco Susini, Italian, Florence, 1627; bronze on a gilt bronze base (1750).

This tabletop bronze depicts a cataclysmic event from Greek mythology when the Trojan prince Paris abducts Helen, wife of the Spartan king Menelaus, which incited the Trojan War. In Susini's portrayal, Paris, nude except for his cap, lifts the struggling figure of Helen as he steps over the fallen figure of a servant who tries to stop him. The weight of Helen's voluptuous figure is suggested by the apparent slipping of her position against Paris' body and the strong grasp Paris exerts to hold her up. The bronze is cast with precisely modeled, naturalistic detail of facial features and hair, expressions, and the bulging veins in Paris' hands which further enhance the realism of the physical and emotional struggle.


Andromeda and the Sea Monster Benzi 1736


Leda and the Swan Benzi 4057

Leda and the Swan (1725)   —   Andromeda and the Sea Monster (1710-1716),
Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, Italian, bronze on gray-green marble base with bronze mounts.

These two bronze groups represent the mythological tales of Andromeda and the Sea Monster and Leda and the Swan. Executed as a pair, they are mounted on identical marble bases (possibly verde antico) with bronze mounts around the corners of the bases (duck-billed dolphins with dog noses for Leda and undulating, sinuous sea monsters for Andromeda). Both sculptures demonstrate Soldani-Benzi's ability as a dramatic storyteller, presenting the figures as if they are actors on a stage. Each composition is organized on principles of diagonal lines set against the vertical tree trunk. The strong diagonals create an interplay between the two groups, which otherwise exhibit contrasting forms and emotions.

Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi developed the composition of the Leda group from that of his pre-existing Andromeda group. Enamored of the beautiful Leda, the god Jupiter seduced her in the form of a swan. In this bronze version of the mythological scene, Leda and the swan are suggestively posed: the arc of the lovers' embracing arms and wings and the curvature of their bodies, poised before union, increases the erotic suspense. The swath of drapery trapped between Leda's thighs, as well as her movement drawing the swan down towards her, hint at the inevitable moment of union. This tale of seduction, mentioned in Ovid's Metamorphoses, was a popular subject for artists from the Renaissance onwards. An unusual aspect of this version, however, is that Castor and Pollux, the fruit of the union, are not shown. Instead, the artist included Cupid, the god of love. Perched on his wings, Cupid encourages the amorous Jupiter. The contrasting textures of Leda's smooth voluptuous skin and the swan's feathers hint at Soldani-Benzi's technical virtuosity with bronze casting.

Andromeda and the Sea Monster depicts a dramatic moment from the ancient Greek author Euripides' tale of Andromeda and Perseus. Andromeda's mother angered the gods with her boast that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, the attendants of the god of the sea, Poseidon. To appease the offended Poseidon, who threatened to destroy their entire kingdom, Andromeda's parents sacrificed their daughter by leaving her where she would be devoured by his monster. As Andromeda awaits the monster, chained to a rock, Perseus flies overhead, falls instantly in love with her, and rescues her by slaying the beast. Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi's interpretation of the story is unusual because he focused on Andromeda's horror at the monster instead of on her rescue. As the sea monster lunges towards her, the nude Andromeda recoils, straining against the chains that tie her to the rocky ledge. Her hair blows behind her, indicating sudden movement. The sharp angles of her eyebrows and nose express anxiety, while the diagonal of her body expresses her repulsion towards the growling beast.


Laocoon Foggini 3230 LG

Laocoön, Giovanni Battista Foggini, Italian, Florence, c. 1720, bronze.

Laocoön and his two sons writhe and struggle, caught in the grip of the serpents that wind among their limbs. The father's large size, powerful musculature, and wild hair and beard contrast with his smaller, smoother-limbed sons. As retold in Greek mythology, the Trojan prince Laocoön angered Apollo by breaking a vow of celibacy he swore to the god and then warning the Trojans not to bring the wooden horse left by the Greeks into the city. To silence him, the gods (Apollo, or Poseidon and Athena, or Poseidon, depending on the version of the myth) sent serpents from the sea to kill him and his sons.

Giovanni Battista Foggini's bronze is based on a famous marble sculpture of the Laocoön unearthed in Rome in 1506. The Roman historian Pliny had described this renowned sculpture in awed language, as "a work to be preferred to all that the arts of painting and sculpture have produced". Its celebrity prompted many bronze reductions, or smaller-scale copies including this one, made in Florence. Although it imitates an antique work, the emotionalism and frontality of this bronze are characteristics of the late Baroque Florentine style. This type of tabletop bronze was often displayed on a cabinet where it served as a souvenir of the "Grand Tour", and evidence of its owner's classical education.


Boreas Abducting Orithyia 3969


Putto Holding Shield Tacca 1827

Boreas Abducting Orithyia, Gaspard Marsy, French, Tours, cast 1693-1710, bronze.

Gaspard Marsy's bronze of Boreas Abducting Orithyia entwines three figures in a complex and compact spiral: a small reclining Zephyr, the young but powerful Boreas, whose puffed-out cheeks refer to his identity as the North Wind, and the struggling Orithyia, daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens. According to Greek mythology, Boreas brought Orithyia to Thrace, where the two reigned as King and Queen of the Winds.

To decorate the corners of Charles LeBrun's never-completed garden at Versailles, the Parterre d'Eau, King Louis XIV commissioned four monumental marble groups representing mythological abductions, each featuring three figures and symbolizing one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. This bronze, with Boreas as a personification of the North Wind representing Air, is based on Marsy's preparatory model for one of these statues.

Putto Holding Shield to His Right, Ferdinando Tacca, Italian, Florence, c. 1650-1655, bronze.

Commissioned by the Bartolommei family for the former high altar of Santo Stephano al Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy, this is one of a pair of Putti which mirror each other in pose, but exhibit individuality of facial features, expressions, 'attitude' and the head and arm positioning. Ferdinando Tacca was the son of Pietro Tacca, who was court sculptor to the Grand Dukes de' Medici. In 1640, Ferdinando succeeded his father Pietro as court sculptor to Grand Dukes Ferdinando II and Cosimo III de' Medici, and inherited the workshops and Mannerist legacy of Giambologna and his father Pietro Tacca.

Several features of the bronze putti underscore Tacca's later development away from the Mannerist style towards the Baroque style emerging in Rome: the realistic, pudgy anatomy, the animated facial expression, the theatrical gesture, and the dynamic patterns of light created by the folds of he drapery all exhibit characteristics of the new Baroque style. Tacca's outstanding skill as a bronze caster is evident in the precise, masterful handling of details, such as the texture of the feathers and the curls in the hair. The Putto retains the translucent, reddish-brown lacquer patina typical of Florentine bronzes of this period.


Mercury van der Schardt HS4924


Venus and Cupid Sansovino HS5005

Mercury, Johan Gregor van der Schardt, Dutch, Bologna, Italy, c. 1570-1580, bronze.

Mercury, son of Jupiter and Maia, was messenger to Jupiter and served as patron of travel, commerce, science, and thievery in Greek and Roman mythology. Johan Gregor van der Schardt shows the young, athletic figure of Mercury, identified by the winged sandals and hat he wears and the caduceus he carries, as he effortlessly returns from flight. Van der Schardt suggested the spontaneity of his landing through the asymmetry of his body: Mercury tilts his head and twists his body so that his right hip comes forward while his right shoulder swings back. Mercury was cast hollow from a wax model. After casting, the hair and parts of the wings and sandals were reworked with chisels to accentuate their crispness.

Venus and Cupid with Dolphin, Circle of Jacopo Sansovino, French, c. 1550, bronze.

On a circular base with swirls indicating waves, an elegantly coiffed, nude Venus looks down at Cupid while striding forward. Cupid sports wings and a bow and arrows in a sling over his back. Reaching up to his mother, he balances on a fantastic diving dolphin that has an almost human face. The figure of Venus is a study in contrasts: her elaborate hairstyle contrasts with her smooth flesh, and the detachment with which she takes away Cupid's arrow, now missing, disguises her passionate nature. Scenes like this one, drawn from Greek and Roman mythology, were popular in the 1600s and 1700s in France.


The Bronze Sculpture page contains 55 images of Neoclassical and Baroque bronzes
compiled from several visits to the Getty Center Museum, including some detail shots.


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