Behind the Scenes, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Center, J. Paul Getty Museum, Prints and Drawings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Welcoming Leonardo to L.A.

More than any other exhibition I’ve worked on, Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention feels historic. To stand there as the crate containing Leonardo’s painting of Saint Jerome from the Vatican was opened, to imagine that one of only a dozen paintings by Leonardo that still exist could be here in Los Angeles, was incredible. Over 30 years have passed since the last time one of his paintings was in the city.

Just as exciting are the three enormous bronze statues by Giovan Francesco Rustici. When I was a student in Florence, I saw them on the front of the baptistery, where they had stood for hundreds of years. Now they stand in a Getty Museum gallery (if only temporarily). Each statue weighs more than a ton. Watching the installation made me grateful that I am a curator of drawings! It also gave me a new respect for my colleagues in other departments: drawings can just be framed and put on the wall, but statues need plinths, supports, clips, perhaps earthquake isolators. It’s another world.

Installing Rustici's John the Baptist Preaching to a Pharisee and a Levite

Installing Giovan Francesco Rustici's John the Baptist Preaching to a Pharisee and a Levite. Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence. Courtesy the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Each Rustici bronze traveled here in a crate on its back, and had to be hoisted upright, lifted by a gantry, and swung gently into place. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when they were all there.

Wall mural (photograph by Ramak Fazel) of Nina Akamu's 24-foot-tall bronze sculpture Il Cavallo, made in homage to Leonardo da Vinci's plans for the Sforza horse

Wall mural (photograph by Ramak Fazel) of Nina Akamu's 24-foot-tall bronze sculpture Il Cavallo, made in homage to Leonardo da Vinci's plans for the Sforza horse

Already visitors have been taking their photographs in front of the giant 24-foot-high photo mural of a bronze horse in the entrance hall.

Sculptor Nina Akamu made the horse, which stands in Milan as an homage to Leonardo. Leonardo intended to make a bronze horse on such an unprecedented scale for the ruler of Milan; it would have weighed 70 tons.

We have many drawings relating to it in the exhibition, including some of the most beautiful drawings I know of horses, but the statue itself was never made. The bronze amassed for it was sent away by the ruler to make cannons. Such are the ways of men…

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  1. J. J. Miller
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    When does this exhibit open, and how long will it be open to the public?

  2. Debbie
    Posted April 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    This is one of the most exciting exhibitions that I’ve seen at the Getty (close runner up to the Mt. Sinai exhibition). What an absolute DELIGHT to be able to savor so many Leonardo drawings up close. Then you turn the corner and there are those breath-taking colossal Rustici bronzes! Thank you and your staff for a stunning set-up. More, please!

  3. Aaron Loo
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Julian and Anne-Lise for “Leonardo da Vinci and Renaissance Sculpture: Looking Closely”.
    Learned so much and have gotten very inspired by the wealth of information. Looking forward to Sunday’s “Il Cavallo: A Sculptural Homage to Leonardo da Vinci.” Sculptor Nina Akamu talks about the creation of her giant 24-foot-high bronze horse in homage to Leonardo’s unfinished Sforza monument. And was lucky enough to get a ticket for “Leonardo da Vinci versus Michelangelo: Battles in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.” Julian Brooks, associate curator of drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, investigates the rivalry between Leonardo and Michelangelo, which was precipitated by their commissions in Florence, and the astonishing innovations that resulted.

  4. Posted July 5, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Hi there.

    “The bronze amassed for it was sent away by the ruler to make cannons.”

    Typical the art of warfare.

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit idiosyncratic. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.


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