Aug 4, 2009

The Chimaera of Arezzo at the Getty

In a tangible shift in the way the Getty will perhaps operate in the future, the Chimaera of Arezzo has arrived at the Getty Villa in Malibu.  It is a loan of the work which combines history, archaeology, mythology and art appreciation.  Based on the initial reviews, it is exactly the kind of exhibition an institution like the Getty should be doing—rather than persisting in acquiring potentially looted antiquities. 

The Etruscan bronze was found in Tuscany in the 16th Century and installed at the Palazzo Vecchio by Cosimo I. It had been on display in Florence before being sent to Malibu.
 

The LA Times Arts blog reviews the bronze and the exhibition:
The roaring head, encircled by curving rows of tufted fur, strains upward and bends to the right. Behind it the goat's head mirrors this pose but in the opposite direction. So the bodily motion goes down, back, up, left and right, yielding a marvelously animated dynamism. Skin is pulled taut over powerful musculature, while parallel curves, alternating shadow with light, articulate the beast's gaunt rib cage. This is an animal with living, breathing innards, not just a ferocious outward demeanor.


Look closely and you'll spot a couple of stylized floral rosettes on the goat's neck and the lion's hind end — in fact, engorged drops of blood, spurting from stabbed flesh. The beast has been wounded, no doubt from the fatal assault by the long-lost bronze figure of the Greek hero Bellerophon riding his winged steed, Pegasus — victors in the mythical ancient battle. The Chimaera of Arezzo is what remains of a surely amazing sculptural grouping, fabricated by a supremely gifted artist and his bronze casting crew, circa 400 B.C.

It is an antiquity with a well-storied history.  At the time, Cosimo I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany was competing with Rome.  When this bronze was unearthed, he had an antiquity to rival this bronze, "La Lupa", which depicted the mythical founding of Rome. 

But has anything really changed?  It is interesting I think that the use of antiquities as symbols of power in the Renaissance continues in Italy today.  Consider the recent controversy which erupted when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have revealed to an escort girl that his Villa in Sardinia may have been built on top of 30 ancient Phoenecian tombs without the necessary notification of the Culture Ministry or the Carabinieri. 
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