Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Cellini Gets a Rival

Double Head / Francesco Primaticcio

Double Head, Francesco Primaticcio (Italian, 1504–1570), about 1543–56. Bronze, 15 13/16 in. high. The J. Paul Getty Museum

A beautiful bronze Double Head, attributed to the Italian sculptor Francesco Primaticcio, has just joined the Museum’s collection. Though made by an Italian, it was commissioned by a Frenchman: Francis I, the king of France, for his palace at Fontainebleau outside Paris.

Why does the sculpture have two heads? It was probably meant to be displayed atop a column, and at one time was installed above a gate leading into a garden at Fontainebleau, where it could be admired from either side. At the Getty Center the Double Head is likewise displayed on a column—indoors, of course, harmonizing with late-Renaissance paintings by Titian, Dossi, and other Italian artists in Gallery N205.

Just downstairs, however, another Italian may be less happy with the new acquisition. In Gallery N102 is a bronze figure by Primaticcio’s great rival, Benvenuto Cellini, the suitably outraged-looking Satyr. This is  the preparatory model for one of the two full-scale figures Cellini designed to flank the monumental entrance to Fontainebleau’s Porte Dorée (Golden Door).

Satyr after a model by Benvenuto Cellini

Satyr after a model by Benvenuto Cellini (Italian, 1500–1571). Bronze, 22 3/8 in. high. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 85.SB.69

Both Primaticcio and Cellini excelled at sculpting after ancient monuments in Rome, and both were chosen by Francis I for his campaign to introduce a new classicizing style into France. But they often competed for commissions and for the favor of the king and his mistress, the Duchesse d’Etampes. (The ancient Roman prototype for this Double Head, the so-called Cesi Juno, may have served as the inspiration for the beautiful stucco decoration of female figures in the duchess’s private apartments at Fontainebleau.)

The rivals fought openly, and the notoriously hot-headed Cellini ranted against Primaticcio in the entertaining memoirs he composed while sentenced to prison.

Centuries later, though, we can put their rivalry aside and admire two intriguing, though dramatically different, examples of a watershed moment in French art.

Double Head (detail of face) / Francesco Primaticcio

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      A Chat with Photographer Tomoko Sawada

      A conversation about Japanese matchmaking traditions, self-portraiture, clothes, and identity.

      When did you start photographing yourself?
      I began making self-portraits when I was 19. It was an assignment for a photography class. I can’t even explain in Japanese why I liked them so much. It was instinctual. It’s as if I knew that this was going to be my style, that this is what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it because I love the self-portrait, but I don’t know why. 

      What themes are you exploring in your work?
      I’m interested in the relationship between inside and outside. If you wear a sexy dress or if you wear kids clothes or casual clothes, people treat you differently. Even though you are you no matter what you wear. It’s that relationship that makes me think. 

      My new work is from when I was living in New York. When I was in New York, people didn’t think I was Japanese. Sometimes they thought I was Korean or Chines or Mongolian. Even Singaporean. It was funny, when I would go to the Japanese market, they would speak to me in English. When I went to the Korean market, they would speak to me in English again. I don’t seem to look Japanese outside of Japan. I was surprised because I think I look totally Japanese. It’s funny that people’s points of view are totally different.

      Could you talk a little about OMIAI, the series that represents a traditional Japanese matchmaking technique.
      OMIAI is a tradition that is somehow still working today. Usually, there is a matchmaker and photographs are exchanged before meeting. If both sides are interested, they can meet for lunch or dinner accompanied by their parents and steps for marriage proceed from there. In the old days, some people chose their marriage partner just through photographs, without even meeting each other. 

      When OMIAI was exhibited in Japan I saw people making various comments in from of the work. People would say things like, “she looks like a good cook; surely she would prepare delicious meals every day,” or “ this girl could be a perfect bride for my son,” or “I can tell she would not be a good housewife,” or “she’s such a graceful girl; she must be the daughter of a decent family.” Comments like that. 

      What was the process of making that work?
      I gained 10 pounds before I started taking the pictures, and in six months I lost forty pounds, because I wanted to look different in each photo. I wanted to change the way my legs looked. 

      Every weekend I went to the hair salon and put on a kimono. Then I went to the photo studio on the street in Japan. I would take a picture and then change my clothes to western dress. Then I would go to the studio again the next weekend. 

      Did you tell the photographer how you wanted it done?
      I told him I was an artist and wanted to make photographs with him. I told him to think that each weekend new girls would show up to make the OMIAI. I didn’t want him to think of me as the same girl who came every weekend. He understood the concept. 

      We had fun. While he was taking pictures, his wife would tell me how to lose weight. She gave me many tips.

      Tomoko Sawada’s work is on view at the Getty until February 21, 2016 in “The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography”


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