Behind the Scenes, Conservation, J. Paul Getty Museum, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

All Shook Up! Protecting Art in an Earthquake

When you look at sculpture in the Getty Museum’s galleries, you wouldn’t guess that some of the pedestals are somewhat unusual. Under their polished veneer, they’re engineered to protect art from the movements caused by earthquakes.

Many museums in California and other parts of the world, including Italy, Greece, and Japan, are located in areas prone to seismic activity—and their collections have suffered a great deal as a result. The Getty has devised pioneering mechanisms that safely stabilize vulnerable artworks.

Working closely with our conservators, we created this animation demonstrating technology the Museum uses to mitigate earthquake damage to vulnerable objects. How do the earth’s movements during an earthquake affect intrinsically unstable works of art? And what can be done to protect them? Hold onto your seats and watch.

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One Comment

  1. Karol Wight
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    This is a fantastic way to demonstrate how the seismic isolation devices developed at the Getty Museum function.

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts


      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.

      07/31/15

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