Antiquities, Behind the Scenes, Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty Museum

Welcoming the Berthouville Treasure to the Getty Villa

Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet, Eduardo Sanchez, and Susan Lansing Maish with the Berthouville Treasure

Curator Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet from the Cabinet des Médailles (left), Eduardo, and Susan examining an ornamented cup from the Berthouville Treasure (Roman, 100 B.C.–A.D. 200, silver. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques, Paris)

The J. Paul Getty Museum and Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibilotheque nationale de France (the department of coins, medals, and antiques of the National Library of France) are collaborating on the research and conservation treatment of the Berthouville Treasure, an extraordinary group of Roman silver objects from Paris.

The collection of ancient luxury items will be at the Getty Villa for a three-year-long conservation project followed by an exhibition. This project is an example of excellent collegial collaboration and a unique opportunity to study and treat this collection of ancient objects.

This rich cache of approximately 95 ancient Gallo-Roman silver vessels was discovered by a farmer plowing his field near the village of Berthouville in the region of Normandy, approximately 150 kilometers west of Paris, in March 1830. Shortly after this valuable discovery was made, it was determined that the collection was from the treasury of an ancient shrine dedicated to Mercury Canetonensis, a major deity of Roman Gaul. It seems to have been hastily buried during an invasion in the 3rd century A.D.

The collection arrived at the Getty Villa’s conservation studios in Los Angeles in mid-December 2010, in eight large wooden crates accompanied by two of the Cabinet’s curators, Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet and Cecile Colonna. Early the next morning—together with Getty Villa curators, museum registrars, preparators, and art conservators—they began the lengthy phase of carefully unpacking and sorting each object in preparation for detailed observation. Each object was carefully examined to assure that the items had arrived intact and undamaged.

One of the eight crates in which the Berthouville Treasure was shipped from Paris to Los Angeles

Opening one of the eight crates in which the Berthouville Treasure was shipped from Paris to Los Angeles

Opening a storage box to reveal a vessel from the Berthouville Treasure

Eduardo carefully opens a storage box in the Antiquities Conservation Studios to reveal a silver vessel from the Berthouville Treasure

Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet, Teresa Navarro-Gomez, and Eduardo Sanchez with the Berthouville Treasure

Mathilde, graduate intern Teresa Navarro-Gomez, and Eduardo examining a vessel from the Berthouville Treasure

Susan Lansing Maish, Cecile Colonna, Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet, and Eduardo Sanchez with a silver plate

Susan, Cecile, Mathilde, and Eduardo examining one of the large silver plates that will be conserved along with the Berthouville Treasure

While undergoing conservation treatment here at the Getty, each piece will be individually photographed, radiographed, cleaned, conserved, and closely studied by Museum conservators and curators, as well as Getty Conservation Institute scientists in preparation for an exhibition in 2014 at the Getty Villa.

We are very excited to continue this collaborative project, and will update you here as our work progresses.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    This is exciting to see the collaboration on the conservation of the Berthouville Treasure. It will be a treat to see the progress here.

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.


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