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.
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.
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…