Exhibition | Curieux Antiquaires: Les débuts de l’archéologie à Bavay

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 23, 2019

From the Forum Antique de Bavay:

Curieux Antiquaires: The Origins of Archaeology in Bavay in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Forum Antique, Bavay (Nord), 7 February — 27 August 2019

L’antiquaire est par définition un grand collectionneur… Mais, celui que nous connaissons aujourd’hui et celui des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles sont bien différents. Un antiquaire dans les années 1700 et 1800 est en réalité un précurseur de l’archéologie, il se passionne pour la collection d’objets antiques et s’intéresse à leur passé pour raconter notre Histoire. Avec l’exposition Curieux antiquaires, les débuts de l’archéologie à Bavay aux XVIIle et XIXe siècles, pénétrez au coeur du passé antique de Bavay avec les yeux de ces amateurs éclairés. Découvrez des érudits hauts en couleurs à travers leurs méthodes de travail, réseaux, collections et dessins.

Cette exposition grand public a pour but de faire part aux visiteurs des avancées dans la connaissance de l’histoire de l’archéologie à Bavay en mettant d’une part en avant des portraits des acteurs de cette histoire (l’abbé Carlier, J.B. Lambiez, Antoine Niveleau, Parent) et d’autre part leurs publications (Recueil de dessins de Carlier, Histoire monumentaire du Nord des Gaules de Lambiez, Bavay ancien et nouveau de Niveleau …). Il est aussi question de faire prendre conscience au public du fait que la manière de construire l’image de l’Antiquité est conditionnée par l’époque.

Curieux Antiquaires: Les débuts de l’archéologie à Bavay aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (Paris: Snoeck, 2019), 200 pages, ISBN: 978-9461614711, 22€.

Si l’histoire de l’antique Bagacum est bien connue, la manière dont celle-ci s’est construite l’est moins. Curieux antiquaires, les débuts de l’archéologie à Bavay aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles permet d’appréhender le patrimoine bavaisien sous un nouvel angle. Offrant une mise en perspective tant géographique que chronologique, ce catalogue apporte une vision nouvelle sur les premiers antiquaires bavaisiens. A travers les contributions d’Odile Parsis-Bazubé et d’Alain Schnapp, c’est la construction de l’antiquariate et de l’archéologie en France aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles qui est mise en lumière. Plus loin, Véronique Beirnaert-Mary, Delphine Morana-Burlot et Véronique Krings détaillent l’exemple de Bavay. La première dresse le paysage bavaisien en présentant les acteurs locaux et leurs actions. Delphine Morana-Burlot propose ensuite une réflexion autour de la question du faux, Enfin, Véronique Krings ouvre une fenêtre sur la période du début du XXe siècle en s’attachant à relater la correspondance entre Franz Cumont et Raoul Warocqué autour des objets bavaisiens. Richement illustré, cet ouvrage rassemble toutes les pièces présentées à l’occasion de l’exposition. Des documents inédits sont ici publiés pour la première fois. La juxtaposition des objets archéologiques et de leur représentation dessinée est elle aussi inédite.

Exhibition | Thai Buddhist Tales

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 22, 2019

Extracts from the Pāli Canon (Tipiṭaka) and Qualities of the Buddha (Mahabuddhaguna), 18th century, Thailand
(Dublin: Chester Beatty Library, CBL Thi 1341)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Press release (via Art Daily) for the exhibition, which includes an especially impressive virtual gallery:

Thai Buddhist Tales: Stories along the Path to Enlightenment
Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin, 14 June 2019 — 26 January 2020

Curated by Laura Muldowney

The Chester Beatty has opened an exhibition of Thai Buddhist manuscripts dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. The world-renowned collection of beautifully illustrated books provides a rare opportunity to explore the Buddhist tales depicted within. Presented as colourful illustrations alongside sacred texts, some of the most popular Buddhist stories within the books are the birth tales of the Buddha and the legend of the monk Phra Malai.

Extracts from the Pāli Canon (Tipiṭaka) and Qualities of the Buddha (Mahabuddhaguna), 18th century, Thailand (Dublin: Chester Beatty Library, CBL Thi 1344).

Handsomely decorated folding books were used by monks as teaching aids and for chanting during religious ceremonies. Many were commissioned following the death of a relative and then donated to a temple. This earned religious merit for the donor as well as the deceased.

The Buddha had many past lives, but stories of his last ten are particularly important in Thai culture. Known as jatakas, or ‘birth tales’, these stories tell of the Buddha’s moral evolution over countless incarnations as he attained the ten perfections required for Buddhahood. Well-known scenes from these stories are featured in Thai folding books of the 18th and 19th centuries. They are presented as paired paintings, flanking the passages of sacred text. The life of the historical Buddha was much less frequently depicted in Thai folding books, but the museum has several examples that show scenes from his life before and after he became the Buddha.

The legend of a monk named Phra Malai was one of the most popular subjects of 19th-century Thai illustrated folding books. The pious monk Phra Malai visited heaven and hell using powers he earned through meditation and acts of merit. On his return to earth he reported what he had seen. The tale was often recited at wakes. Its detailed descriptions of hell and heaven served as powerful reminders that actions in this life determine one’s next life.

Illustrated folding books continued to be made in Thailand into the early twentieth century. However by the 1920s, the availability of inexpensive printing meant their production had almost completely come to an end. Introducing cherished stories and preserving the devotion of their makers and the communities who used them, these beautiful books offer a unique window onto Thai Buddhist heritage.

The exhibition is curated by Laura Muldowney, researcher of the museum’s East Asian collection.

Extracts from the Pali Canon (Tipitaka) and Story of Phra Malai, late 18th century, Thailand
(Dublin: Chester Beatty Library, CBL Thi 1328)

Display | Pietre Dure

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 20, 2019

Depiction of the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, Grand Ducal workshop, Florence, 1795; marble, painted alabaster, pietre dure, gilt bronze
(Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Now on view at the V&A:

Pietre Dure: Highlights from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 22 March 2019 — 20 March 2020

In celebration of the highly skilled techniques of hardstone marquetry, this display showcases the wide range of pietre dure objects in the Gilbert Collection. With examples from the early seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, the display draws together objects produced on diverse scales and for a variety of functions, offering an insight into the history of pietre dure techniques, designs, and workshops.

Exhibition | Romantic Germany

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 19, 2019

Now on view at the Petit Palais:

Romantic Germany: Drawings from the Museums of Weimar
Petit Palais, Paris, 22 May — 1 September 2019

Curated by Hermann Mildenberger, Gaëlle Rio, and Christophe Leribault

For the first time in France the Petit Palais is presenting a selection of 140 drawings from the lavish collections of Weimar’s museums. These remarkable images—initially chosen by Goethe (1749–1832) for the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and his own collection—offer a spectacular overview of the golden age of German drawing (ca. 1780–1850).

In the late 18th century the city of Weimar, seat of the Dukes of Saxe-Weimar, was Germany’s intellectual hub. A key figure at this enlightened court, Goethe accumulated numerous posts of cultural responsibility, in addition to writing most of his works there. Himself a knowledgeable collector and draftsman, he built up for the Grand Duke a handsome collection representing every facet of German drawing.

At this time, literature, the visual arts, and music were undergoing profound upheavals in terms of their rules and practice. While the Romantic movement never had a leader as such, its artists unanimously stood for expression of the passions and subjectivity of vision; and in many cases this period saw a blossoming of drawing that made it the most innovative of the creative disciplines of the time.

Divided into seven sections, the exhibition combines the chronological and the aesthetic. As well as such emblematic figures as Caspar Friedrich, Philipp Runge, and Johann Füssli, visitors will discover some 35 artists who played vital parts in the history of drawing, among them Tischbein, Carstens, Fohr, Horny, von Schadow, Schinkel, von Schwind, Richter, and the Nazarenes Overbeck and Schnorr von Carolsfeld, driven by Christian spirituality and national feeling. Portraits and genre scenes, castles in ruins, compositions of biblical and medieval inspiration—but above all landscapes mingling idealism and naturalism in every imaginable media—offer viewers a sublime frisson in their illustration of the private, inner and sometimes flamboyant lives of the Romantic artists.

Hermann Mildenberger, professor and curator at Klassik Stiftung Weimar
Gaëlle Rio, director, Musée de la Vie romantique
Christophe Leribault, director, Petit Palais

L’Allemagne romantique: Les dessins du musée de Weimar (Paris: Éditions Paris Musées, 2019), 232 pages, ISBN: 978-2759604258, 40€.

Exhibition | Generation Revolution: French Drawings

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 16, 2019

Philippe-Auguste Hennequin, Les Remords d’Oreste, ca. 1800
(Montpellier: Musée Fabre)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Press release for the exhibition now on view at the Cognacq-Jay:

Generation Revolution: French Drawings from the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, 1770–1815
Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris, 16 March — 14 July 2019

From 16 March through 14 July 2019, the Musée Cognacq-Jay explores the choices made by a generation of artists who were in their thirties during the French Revolution. The art world they had known was completely overthrown. How did they adapt? Where did they stand, and what coping strategies did they find? Artists were obliged to profoundly re-examine their practices and their opportunities, reconsidering even their subjects and their stylistic orientation, between Neoclassicism and Pre-Romanticism.

The medium of intimacy par excellence, drawing reflects the richness and diversity of this transitional period. The exhibition brings together a selection of 80 exceptional drawings from the collection of the Musée Fabre in Montpellier. This unique group of drawings, never before shown in Paris, attests the acceleration of history and a prelude to modernity

The decades bridging the 18th and 19th centuries were a period of major political, economic, and social upheaval. The art world was by no means spared: royal commissions disappeared, the Académies were suppressed, and large projects cancelled. This exhibition, organised in collaboration with the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, speaks to the renewal of artistic techniques, styles, subjects, and sensibilities that emerged from these upheavals. While the birth of a republican patriotic ideal inspired artists to draw from the history of Antiquity, private and picturesque subjects also experienced an unprecedented success.

Focused on drawing, the exhibition presents a corpus of almost a hundred remarkable sheets, assembled by one of David’s favourite students, the painter François-Xavier Fabre, who was also a collector, art expert and art dealer. The collection he bequeathed to his native city was the basis for the Cabinet des arts graphiques at the Musée Fabre. The most famous artists of the time: David, Girodet, Vien, Fragonard and Prud’hon clustered around the personality of Fabre.

The exhibition plan is based on around four thematic sections presenting the different genres practiced by artists of the time, the development of artistic trends, and the emergence of individual personalities along with the diversity of graphic techniques employed.

Drawing to Learn

Until the end of the Ancien Regime, training at the Royal Academy was a requirement for any artist who hoped to obtain official commissions. Drawing instruction occupied a preeminent place in the curriculum and required a mastery of geometry, perspective, and anatomy. Figure drawing was considered the most noble exercise (and the most revelatory of youthful potential), so much so that the male nude was known as an ‘academy figure’. With the coming of the Revolution, the practice of drawing took off in an extraordinary way.

In Praise of the Individual

Although historical subjects continued to dominate the hierarchy of genres in painting, representations of daily life and its pleasures attracted an ever more substantial clientele. The portrait and the genre scene—less subject to political shifts and embraced by a growing bourgeoisie—expanded in an unprecedented way. Fragonard, for example, made a specialty of these types of painting.

The Virtues of History

The hegemony of history painting was exacerbated by the Revolution and took on a moralising role: the nascent Republic seized upon ancient Rome for its examples of virtue and heroism. Interest in subjects taken from the Bible and ancient history strengthened the dominance of Neoclassicism. Meanwhile, however, artists were fascinated by other imaginaries: the national past, especially the medieval past, and the Middle-East, revealed by scientific investigations and military campaigns, two points of reference which are at the source of later Neo-Gothic and Orientalism.

Travel and Nature

Antoine-Laurent Castellan, Etude de nuages, 1815 (Montpellier: Musée Fabre).

For the artists who chose exile, Italy remained a favoured destination. Attractive above all for its masterpieces of ancient and Renaissance art, Italy’s vast panoramas and striking light effects were also a draw. The French artists sojourning on the peninsula—in particular François-Xavier Fabre and his friends—went off into the countryside looking to immortalise grandiose sites where nature dominates the human figure.

Lead Curators
Michel Hilaire, Director, Musée Fabre
Annick Lemoine, Director, Musée Cognacq-Jay
Rose-Marie Herda-Mousseaux, chief curator for the modern era at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Scientific Curators
Benjamin Couilleaux, Curator for cultural heritage, Director Musée Bonnat-Helleu
Florence Hudowicz, Curator for cultural heritage, Curator of drawings and decorative arts, Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Benjamin Couilleaux, Michel Hilaire, and Florence Hudowicz, Génération en Révolution: Dessins français du musée Fabre, 1770–1815 (Paris Musées, 2019), 174 pages, ISBN: 978-2759604197, 35€.

Catalogue cover Image: François-Xavier Fabre, Personnage nu saisissant un cube de pierre, 1789–92 (Montpellier: Musée Fabre).

Exhibition | Masterpieces of Indian Painting for the East India Company

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 14, 2019

Shaikh Zain al–Din, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Eastern India, Calcutta, 1778
(Private Collection; photo by Margaret Nimkin)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

From the press release:

Forgotten Masterpieces of Indian Painting for the East India Company
The Wallace Collection, London, September 2019 — January 2020

Curated by William Dalrymple

In September 2019, the Wallace Collection presents Forgotten Masterpieces of Indian Painting for the East India Company. Curated by renowned writer and historian William Dalrymple, this is the first UK exhibition of Indian paintings commissioned by East India Company officials in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reflecting both the beauty of the natural world and the social reality of the time, these dazzling and often surprising artworks offer a rare glimpse of the cultural fusion between British and Indian artistic styles during this period.

Comprising works from a wide variety of Indian traditions, the exhibition belatedly honours historically overlooked Mughal artists including Shaikh Zain al–Din, Bhawani Das, Shaikh Mohammad Amir of Karriah, Sita Ram, and Ghulam Ali Khan. It will shed light on a forgotten moment in Anglo-Indian history, recognising the vivid and highly original paintings it produced as among the greatest masterpieces of Indian painting.

William Dalrymple, Forgotten Masterpieces: Painting for the East India Company (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2019), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-1781300978.



Exhibition | Un brin de panache, éventails de Chine

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 13, 2019

Opening this week at the Museum of the French East India Company:

Un brin de panache, éventails de Chine
Musée de la Compagnie des Indes, Port-Louis (Brittany), 15 June — 25 November 2019

Les aristocrates européens se piquent d’exotisme extrême-oriental au 17e siècle. Cette passion entraîne l’apparition, en Asie, d’une production d’objets à destination de l’exportation européenne. L’éventail devient l’objet indispensable des cours royales européennes dès le début du 17e siècle.

Les premiers éventails chinois destinés au marché occidental sont faits de brins d’ivoire repercés dont les motifs évoquent la finesse de la production de la porcelaine. Les scènes représentent des figures animales et de riches décors floraux. L’usage de l’éventail se démocratise au 18e siècle et ce sont plus de 45,000 éventails qui sont importés par la Compagnie française de 1722 à 1741. Ils sont majoritairement en bambou mais les plus beaux sont en ivoire, en écailles de torture ou en laque. L’iconographie des feuilles évolue et la variété des scènes représentées se multiplie. L’engouement pour les éventails chinois perdure au 19e siècle. Ainsi, le navire Le Fils de France, armé par l’armateur nantais Thomas Dobrée, rapporte dans ses cales 2,200 éventails qui sont vendus à Nantes en 1819.

Bien que le thé, les porcelaines et la soie soient les marchandises principales importées de Chine par les compagnies des Indes, cette exposition présente une sélection d’éventails, ces objets d’art qui ont participé au goût particulier de certains amateurs de l’exotisme asiatique.

About the Museum

Since 1984, the musée de la Compagnie des Indes de Lorient (the Museum of the French East India Company) has been housed in one of the buildings of the Port-Louis Citadel, a marvel of seventeenth-century military architecture initiated by the Spanish and completed by the architect Jacques Corbineau. The musée de la Compagnie des Indes is the only museum in France dedicated to the story of the great trading companies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ship models, engravings, maps, Indo-European furniture, China porcelains, and Indian cottons shed light on this maritime epic.

Book Launch | Art and Race

Posted in books, exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on June 11, 2019

This evening at The Courtauld:

An Evening about Art and Race, Launching L’Art et la Race: L’Africain (tout) contre l’oeil des Lumières
The Courtauld Institute of Art, King’s Cross, London, 11 June 2019

Organized by Katie Scott and Esther Chadwick

The Courtauld Institute invites you to a round-table discussion to celebrate the publication of Anne Lafont’s major new book L’Art et la Race: L’Africain (tout) contre l’oeil des Lumières (2019) and to mark the exhibition Le Modèle noir at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. The book will be launched by Dr Mechthild Fend (UCL) and Dr Esther Chadwick (Courtauld), followed by conversation between Professor Lafont (EHESS), Professor David Bindman (UCL), and Sam McGuire (Tate) about the staging of the exhibition. Drinks reception to follow.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019, 5:00–6:30pm; Research Forum Seminar Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square Campus, Penton Rise, London. Free and open to all. Registration details are available here.

Exhibition | Printing the Pastoral

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 2, 2019

Jean-Baptiste Huet, Activities on the Farm, ca.1795, copperplate-printed cotton, 89 × 72 inches
(Saint Louis Art Museum)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Press release (15 May 2019) for the exhibition:

Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th-Century Europe
Saint Louis Art Museum, 24 May — 1 December 2019

Curated by Genevieve Cortinovis and Heather Hughes

The Saint Louis Art Museum presents Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th-Century Europe, a free exhibition examining the early development of one of the most recognizable textile genres: copperplate-printed cotton, popularly known as toile.

Nicolaes Berchem, ‘The Shepherd Playing the Flute’, etching; sheet: 8 × 6 inches (Saint Louis Art Museum).

Toile has remained popular since its inception more than 250 years ago, when technological advances allowed textile printers to exploit the type of copperplates long used by artists to print on paper. Artisans were then able to create nuanced, intricate designs, and their creativity flourished. The emergence of copperplate-printed textiles coincided with the taste for scenes of country life and other pastoral imagery in Europe. Middle- and upper-class audiences clamored for fabrics patterned with idyllic scenes of shepherds, ladies on swings, amorous couples, and village celebrations. Textile printers responded, drawing inspiration from a wide variety of sources.

This exhibition reveals the nostalgia for pastoral themes common to 18th-century textile consumers and art collectors by pairing furnishing fabrics, ceramics, and paintings with prints by—or after—Rembrandt van Rijn, Nicolaes Berchem, Paulus Potter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and François Boucher. A reconstructed bed, complete with coverlet and curtains, illustrates the visual impact of these innovative fabrics in the 18th-century home. Printing the Pastoral includes a number of textiles never before exhibited at the museum, including a recent gift of printed cottons from Richard and Suellen Meyer and a loan from the Missouri History Museum of an important early English copperplate-printed textile.

The exhibition is curated by Genevieve Cortinovis, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, and Heather Hughes, senior research assistant and manager of the Study Room for Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

Associate textile conservator Miriam Murphy installs Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th-Century Europe at SLAM.

Exhibition | Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 1, 2019

Press release (13 May 2019) from The Getty:

Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri
Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades (Los Angeles), 26 June — 28 October 2019

Curated by Kenneth Lapatin

The Getty Villa is modeled on the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, an ancient Roman villa buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Rediscovered in the 1750s and explored further in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Villa dei Papiri has yielded spectacular colored marble and mosaic floors, frescoed walls, a large collection of bronze and marble statuary, and a unique library of more than a thousand papyrus scrolls (from which it gets its name). Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri presents many of the most significant artifacts discovered in the 1750s, along with recent finds from the still active archeological site, and explores ongoing efforts to open and read the badly damaged papyri.

“The Villa dei Papiri is one of the most luxurious private residences of the ancient classical world ever discovered and one which had an important role in the early history of archeology. Especially important are its unique collection of ancient bronze statuary and antiquity’s only surviving library of papyrus scrolls, which provide an unprecedented insight into the philosophical interests of its aristocratic Roman occupant—none other than the father-in-law of Julius Caesar,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Among the most impressive of these finds is a rare bronze sculpture of a drunken satyr, which, as part of a collaborative conservation project with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN), is undergoing analysis and conservation treatment in our conservation studios before going on display in the exhibition.”

Potts adds, “For several decades, we have worked closely with Italian colleagues and institutions in conserving, protecting, researching and celebrating Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage. We are delighted now to be collaborating with MANN, the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano (PA-Erco), and the Biblioteca Nazionale “Vittorio Emanuele” di Napoli (BNN) in organizing this exhibition. We have had several successful collaborative conservation projects with MANN over the past few years including, most recently, their monumental funerary vessel (krater) from Altamura in 2018, and three of their splendid bronzes: the Ephebe (Youth) in 2009, the Apollo Saettante in 2011, and the over-life-size sculpture of Tiberius in 2013.”

The Villa dei Papiri was a sumptuous private residence on the Bay of Naples, just outside the Roman town of Herculaneum. Deeply buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, it was rediscovered in 1750 when well-diggers struck a spectacular circular multi-colored marble floor that belonged to the luxurious Roman villa (a full-scale replica of this floor decorates the Getty Villa’s Temple of Hercules gallery). Under the sponsorship of King Charles VII, Karl Weber, a Swiss military engineer in the royal guard, was entrusted with excavating the site. Weber directed a crew of conscripts and convicts to dig a series of shafts and tunnels to seek and remove the most impressive finds to augment the collections of the recently established Royal Herculanean Museum. Although his superiors were chiefly interested in recovering artifacts to enhance the royal collections, Weber carefully recorded their findspots and architectural contexts.

Weber’s excavation plan of the Villa dei Papiri, on display in the exhibition, provides detailed evidence for the layout and decoration of the building, including discovery dates and locations of sculptures, frescos, papyri, columns, pools, fountains, gutters, hinges, and other architectural features. In the early 1970s, when J. Paul Getty decided to replicate the Villa dei Papiri for his museum in Malibu, his architects relied on Karl Weber’s eighteenth-century plan, since the original building remained inaccessible underground. They also employed elements from other ancient structures discovered around the Bay of Naples.

“It is only fitting that the first major exhibition on the Villa dei Papiri takes place at the Getty Villa, which is a recreation of the famous villa in Herculaneum,” says Kenneth Lapatin, curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Recreating the Villa dei Papiri appealed to Mr. Getty because of its association with Julius Caesar through his father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, the villa’s supposed owner. Getty often compared himself to ancient Roman rulers and particularly admired Julius Caesar and the emperor Hadrian, a fellow art collector and villa owner. Although Getty, unlike Hadrian, did not live in his villa, his reconstruction was a key component in his attempts to refashion himself from a Midwestern businessman into a European aristocrat.”

Drunken Satyr, 1st century BC – 1st century AD, bronze
(Naples: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli)

◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊

One of the most significant finds recovered in the 1750s was a first-century bronze statue of a Drunken Satyr in dynamic motion. The middle-aged figure was praised by the eighteenth-century German scholar J. J. Winckelmann as one of the most beautiful bronze statues to survive from antiquity. The satyr, a mythical follower of the wine god Bacchus, wears a pine wreath with flower clusters and has pointed ears, small horns, wild hair, and wattles. He snaps his right thumb and middle finger in a gesture associated by ancient authors with Bacchic abandon. A replica of the satyr can be found in the Getty Villa’s Outer Peristyle pool.

The ancient Drunken Satyr, which is usually on view in Naples, arrived to the Getty early in October 2018 for conservation treatment and analysis as part of a collaborative project with MANN. The project aims to identify past interventions—what was done to the statue in both ancient and early modern times to repair it, stabilize it, or change its appearance. There will also be an investigation of any potential instabilities, including metal corrosion and the connection between the statue’s various parts, as well as their connections to its early modern stone base. In collaboration with their colleagues at MANN, Getty conservators will also evaluate possible aesthetic issues, considering how to best display the sculpture to enhance viewers’ appreciation of its artistry. How the statue was originally manufactured will also be explored through techniques such as X-radiography, endoscopy, technical imaging, and non-invasive analytical methods.

Another important discovery was the cache of approximately 1,100 papyrus scrolls recovered from the ancient villa in 1752–54, which constitute the only surviving library from the classical world. Camillo Paderni (ca. 1715–1781), the first director of the royal museum in Portici, was the first to attempt to open the carbonized scrolls by slicing the scrolls lengthwise, cutting through their charred outer ‘bark’ to expose the writing. The texts were copied for study and eventual publication, and then the papyri were scraped to reveal additional layers. In 1753, Father Antonio Piaggio, a curator of manuscripts at the Vatican, devised a more successful system, inventing and refining a series of unrolling machines, one of which is on view in the exhibition.

In the late 1900s and early 2000s, advanced imaging technologies enhanced the legibility of the previously opened papyri. Today, they offer the prospect of digital unrolling and decipherment of the hundreds that remain closed. An in-gallery video addressing recent attempts to virtually open and read the scrolls will also be part of the exhibition. In addition, a group of papyrus scrolls on loan from Bibiloteca Nazionale “Vittorio Emanuele” in Naples, which will be on display for the first time in the US, will undergo a major research project at UCLA of imaging and virtual unscrolling prior to being placed in the exhibition. The results of the project will be available later in the summer after the exhibition opens.

Most of the texts opened to date are Greek philosophical treatises, particularly by Philodemus of Gadara (about 110–30 BC), a follower of Epicurus. The Athenian philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BC) founded a popular school called the Garden, which recognized pleasure as the greatest good. Images of Greek intellectuals, including busts of Epicurus, and other artifacts, such as a bronze piglet and a portable sundial, recovered from the Villa dei Papiri, further reflects the owner’s interest in Epicurean philosophy and rhetoric.

The rooms and gardens of the Villa dei Papiri were enlivened by approximately 90 sculptures in bronze and marble depicting mythological figures, athletes, rulers, statesmen, poets, and philosophers. Portraits of eminent figures of the Hellenistic period (323–31 BC) predominate, which reflects the particular interests of the villa’s owners in Hellenistic philosophy and politics. The arrangement of the sculptures also appears to have been programmatic, presenting particular groupings that invited viewers to compare the accomplishments and failings of the subjects as well as the artistic styles of the works.

Runner, 1st century BC – 1st century AD, bronze, 119 inches high (Naples: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli; photo by Giorgio Albano).

For wealthy Romans, otium, or leisure, presented a chance to forget the concerns of urban life, abandon worry about politics or business (negotium). A seaside estate such as the Villa dei Papiri was the perfect place for an escape. Its owners could host elaborate banquets where guests were surrounded by art, sating both their gastronomic and aesthetic appetites. Gardens, baths, and athletic spaces, as well as long walkways for undistracted contemplation, invited visitors to pause and discuss the representations of mythological figures, men of letters, and famous statesmen. The exhibition will include many of these ancient bronze and marble representations, not far from their replicas on display throughout the Getty Villa’s gardens, including two famous figures of bronze runners.

Exploration of the Villa dei Papiri was abandoned in 1764 and remained entirely buried for more than two centuries until new excavations were undertaken in the 1990s and 2000s. Renewed interested brought to light a portion of the building’s atrium as well as lower levels that were unknown in the eighteenth century.

Among the new discoveries were rooms with colorful mosaic floors and spectacular frescoed walls and stuccoed ceilings. Finds also included a seaside pavilion and swimming pool, where archaeologists recovered two marble sculptures and luxurious wood and ivory furniture components, on view here for the first time. These recent excavations helped clarify the chronology of the villa, which is now thought to have been built around 40 BC, with the seaside pavilion added around AD 20. Ongoing research continues to advance our understanding of the initial finds from the site.

Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri was organized in collaboration with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Parco Archeologico di Ercolano, and Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli “Vittorio Emanuele III”, and with the generous participation of the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York. The exhibition is made possible with major support from Elizabeth and Bruce Dunlevie. It is generously supported by The Spogli Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Villa Council and the Italian Cultural Institute.

The exhibition is curated by Kenneth Lapatin, curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books and articles on ancient art and its modern reception, including Guide to the Getty Villa (2018); The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection (2012); Luxus: The Sumptuous Arts of Greece and Rome (2015); and Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World (2015).

Kenneth Lapatin, Buried by Vesuvius: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2019), 296 pages, ISBN: 978-1606065921, $65.