Loan from Museo Archeologico Regionale di Agrigento in Sicily is first Manifestation of Agreement with Sicily
At the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa
June 1, 2010 through October 2010
Attributed to the Niobid Painter, the monumental red-figure volute-krater (wine mixing vessel) was produced in Athens between 475 and 450 B.C. One of the most important works from the Museo Archeologico di Agrigento, the krater is on loan to the Getty and will be on view through the end of October in the Getty’s Stories of the Trojan War Gallery (gallery 110), where it joins works of art that illustrate Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Before installing the Gela Krater in the gallery, the Getty Museum’s conservation team, in collaboration with conservators from the Archaeological Museum in Agrigento, will construct a custom seismic isolation base and pedestal for the object. When it returns to Sicily, the krater will be accompanied by its new seismic isolator and pedestal for display in its home museum.
In announcing the loan, acting Getty Museum director David Bomford commented, “We are grateful to our colleagues in Sicily for the loan of this important work of ancient art, which can now be shown alongside our own extraordinary antiquities collection. I am especially pleased that our initial project with Sicily has a conservation component and that we are able to bring our own expertise with earthquake mitigation technology to bear on this object. One goal of our agreement with Sicily is to share our knowledge with our Sicilian colleagues and, in partnership with them, work to preserve Italy’s rich cultural heritage.”
In conjunction with the loan announcement, Assessore Gaetano Armao remarked: “Our collaboration with the Getty is intended to not only help advance an appreciation of Sicily’s unique cultural heritage, but to also allow both sides to benefit from the sharing of knowledge and expertise. I am pleased that we are now beginning to see the fruits of this collaboration and that this remarkable object from Agrigento is now on view to visitors to the Getty in Los Angeles.”
Adds Dr. Giuseppe Castellana, the director of the Museo Archeologico in Agrigento, “We are very pleased that when this object comes back to us later this year, it will come with a new base that will make it more secure. I am hopeful that this first collaboration is only the beginning of a long-lasting friendship between our two institutions and will pave the way for a number of additional projects.”
Another outstanding object from the Museo Archeologico in Agrigento, the marble statue of a Youth (Ephebe), will come to the Getty in the fall of 2010 for the development of a similar seismic isolator base. An exceptional example of the Greek “severe style” dating to about 480 B.C., the Agrigento Youth will then be installed in the Villa’s Athletes gallery until spring 2011. In addition to these two specific projects, the Getty Museum and the Sicilian region will engage in an ongoing dialogue on best practices in the museum profession, and an exchange of professional expertise in educational programs and exhibition planning and design.
These loans are a result of a long-term partnership between the Sicilian Ministry of Culture and Sicilian Identity and the J. Paul Getty Museum, which was announced in February 2010. The agreement outlines a number of collaborative efforts, including object conservation, seismic protection of collections, exhibitions, scholarly research, and conferences. In addition to the Sicilian region, the Getty Museum has now established cultural partnerships with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.
The Gela Krater
Produced in Athens between 475 and 450 B.C., this monumental red-figure volute-krater was excavated in 1889 at the site of Gela, formerly an ancient Greek colony founded on the southeastern coast of Sicily. A luxurious banquet vessel used to mix and serve wine, the krater stands almost 80 cm (31.5 inches) high. Decorated in the red figure technique, its body is illustrated with a vivid battle between armored Greek warriors and their mythical female opponents, the Amazons, a combat known as an Amazonomachy. Representing a collective endeavor of the Greeks against barbarian foes, the scene centers on a confrontation between a Greek hero—possibly to be identified as Achilles or Theseus—and a fallen Amazon. Mirroring the main scene, a secondary figural frieze on the neck depicts encounters between Greeks and another mythical race, the part-horse, part-human Centaurs.
The anonymous artist who painted this vase is known as the Niobid Painter, one of the foremost painters of Athens during the high Classical period. The krater is one of a distinct group of large Athenian vases with elaborate Amazonomachy scenes, which may have drawn inspiration from contemporary wall-paintings. During the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., significant quantities of Athenian pottery were exported to Gela, peaking around the mid-fifth century. Like this krater, the majority were discovered in graves, where large vessels were sometimes used as containers for the cremated remains of the deceased. The Gela Krater’s immediate appeal was—as it remains today—its monumental scale, exceptional craftsmanship, and energetic narrative composition.
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About the Museo Archeologico Regionale di Agrigento
Located just outside the town at Contrada San Nicola, the Museo Archeologico Regionale di Agrigento chronicles the history of the ancient Greek colony of Akragas and its territory from prehistory to the Roman period. Arranged both chronologically and topographically, the galleries display important materials from excavations in southwestern Sicily, especially those conducted by the Soprintendenza Archeologica of Agrigento. They are housed in a complex of buildings, redesigned in the 1960s by architect Franco Minissi to meld the museum’s new wing with the restored fourteenth-century Church of San Nicola, which contains a library, conference hall, and auditorium. The museum features panoramic views over the Valley of the Temples, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The area surrounding the museum was recently identified as the upper part of the ancient city, where numerous architectural remains of an amphitheater and residential quarters have been uncovered.
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