Author: Anne-Lise Desmas
I'm head of the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where I specialize in French and Italian Early Modern sculpture. Growing up in a small beach city by the Atlantic Ocean in France, I could have become a windsurfer or an oyster producer—but my love for sculpture prompted me to leave Brittany to study art history at the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne in Paris. Like many sculptors to the French kings I was studying, I then traveled to Italy to complete my training. I fall in love with Rome, where, to complete my PhD, I spent more than a decade reading dusty archival documents, examining huge travertine statues high up on the facades of basilicas, and examining delicate stucco and marble reliefs in cold churches. There I was lucky enough to work at the French Academy, in the Villa Medici, and at the top of the Pincio Hill overlooking the Eternal City. I couldn't imagine for a minute that I would later work at the top of another hill, overlooking the City of the Angels on the Pacific Coast! I am one ocean and one continent away from Europe, but I can practice surfing (or try to), there are archival documents in the Getty Research Institute (though they are not dusty enough for my taste), and I am surrounded by Tivoli travertine; but above all, I am doing the job I always dreamed of!