Ancient World, Behind the Scenes, Getty Villa

Five-Ton Wheel Takes Center Stage for “Prometheus Bound”

It looks like a ferris wheel—but you can’t ride on it, and instead of pleasure, it offers endless torment. The Prometheus Wheel has arrived.

The 23-foot-tall, five-ton steel creation is the centerpiece of this fall’s outdoor theater production of Prometheus Bound, where it represents the mountaintop to which the rebel god Prometheus is chained for all eternity in punishment for his defiance of Zeus. The actor who plays Prometheus, Ron Cephas Jones, will perform while strapped to the rotating center of the wheel, perched on a modified bike seat.

The wheel is the brainchild of the creative team at the CalArts Center for the Art of Performance, the Getty’s partner in this production. “They have the expertise, the ambition, and the artistic sense to pull off something like this,” Laurel Kishi, performing arts manager at the Getty Museum, told me as we watched the wheel crane over the Villa.

Visitors will be able to see the wheel (but not touch, spin, or climb on it—seriously, no climbing!) in the Outdoor Classical Theater every day through the end of September, when the production concludes. “We felt this would be a great piece to have up so that, even when the play isn’t happening, visitors can take a look at it,” Laurel said. If the wheel moves you, tag it with #PrometheusWheel on Instagram and Twitter.

Video by Sarah Waldorf and Steve Saldivar

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      The Queen Who Wasn’t

      Louis XIV clandestinely wed his mistress, Madame de Maintenon, at Versailles on October 9 or 10, 1683. The marriage was much gossiped about but never openly acknowledged. She was never queen.

      Madame de Maintenon had been the {judgy} governess to Louis XIV’s children by his previous mistress, Madame de Montespan. Louis gave these children moneyed titles—such as the comte de Toulouse, who ordered the tapestries shown here for his residence outside Paris.

      Louis’s secret marriage ushered in a period of religious fervor, in sharp contrast to the light-hearted character of his early reign. Madame de Maintenon was known for her Catholic piety, and founded a school for the education of impoverished noble girls at Saint-Cyr in 1686 that stayed in operation until 1793. This engraving of the Virgin and Child was dedicated to her by the king.

      Virgin and Child, late 1600s, Jean-Louis Roullet after Pierre Mignard; Johann Ulrich Stapf, engraver. The Getty Research Institute. Tapestries from the Emperor of China series. The J. Paul Getty Museum


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