Object Details








Greece (?) (Place created)


about 530 B.C. or modern forgery


Dolomitic marble


206.1 × 54.6 × 51 cm (81 1/8 × 21 1/2 × 20 1/16 in.)

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A kouros is a statue of a standing nude youth that did not represent any one individual youth but the idea of youth. Used in Archaic Greece as both a dedication to the gods in sanctuaries and as a grave monument, the standard kouros stood with his left foot forward, arms at his sides, looking straight ahead. Carved in from four sides, the statue retained the general shape of the marble block. Archaic Greek sculptors reduced human anatomy and musculature in these statues to decorative patterning on the surface of the marble.

The kouros embodies many of the ideals of the aristocratic culture of Archaic Greece. One such ideal of this period was arete, a combination of moral and physical beauty and nobility. Arete was closely connected with kalokagathia, literally a composite term for beautiful and good or noble. Writing in the mid-500s B.C., the Greek poet Theognis summed this idea up as "What is beautiful is loved, and what is not is unloved." In a society that emphasized youth and male beauty, the artistic manifestation of this worldview was the kouros. Indeed, when the poet Simonides wrote about arete in the late 500s, he used a metaphor seemingly drawn from the kouros: "In hand and foot and mind alike foursquare / fashioned without flaw."

Neither art historians nor scientists have been able to completely resolve the issue of the Getty Museum kouros's authenticity. Certain elements of the statue have led to this questioning, especially a mixture of earlier and later stylistic traits and the use of marble from the island of Thasos at a date when its use is unexpected. Yet the anomalies of the Getty kouros may be due more to our limited knowledge of Greek sculpture in this period rather than to mistakes on the part of a forger.

by 1983 - 1985

Antike Kunst Palladion (Basel, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985.

The Getty Kouros (May 1, 1992 to September 5, 1993)
  • Goulandris Museum of Natural History (Athens), May 1 to July 31, 1992
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), January 19 to September 5, 1993
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999
Departures: 11 Artists at the Getty (February 29 to May 7, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 29 to May 7, 2000

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), pp. 179-80, no. 2.

True, Marion. "A Kouros at the Getty Museum." The Burlington Magazine 129, no. 1006 (January 1987), pp. 3-11.

Eisenberg, J. "Chalcolithic Cyprus." Minerva 1, no. 5 (1990).

Margolis, Stanley, and William Showers. "Ancient Greek and Roman Marble Sculpture: Authentication, Weathering, and Provenance Determination," Marble. Art Historical and Scientific Perspectives on Ancient Sculpture. Papers Delivered at a Symposium at the J. Paul Getty Museum, April 28-30, 1988, pp. 283-299. Malibu: 1990, fig. 18.

Spawforth, A. J. S. "News. Getty Kouros Update," Minerva 1, no. 10 (1990), p. 4, ill.

Stewart, Andrew. Greek Sculpture: An Exploration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 110, 122, ill. figs. 133, 135.

Eisenberg, J. "News: Getty Withdraws '6th Century B.C.' Kouros." Minerva 1, no. 7 (1990), p. 20, ill.

Spier, Jeffery. "Blinded by Science: The Abuse of Science in the Detection of False Antiquities." Burlington Magazine 132, no. 1050 (September 1990), pp. 623-31, pp. 628-31; figs. 9, 12.

Sparkes, Brian A. Greek Art. Greece and Rome: New Surveys in the Classics 22 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 11.

Sammond, Nicolas. "A Question of Authenticity." In Exploratorium Quarterly 15, no. 4 (Winter 1991).

Eisenberg, J. "Colloquium Held at Athens on Getty Kouros." Minerva 3, no. 4 (1992), p. 5.

Vallera-Rickerson, I., and M. Korma. "Merika ellenika ekthemata tou Mouseiou Getty." Archaiologia 43 (1992), p. 87, ill.

Eisenberg, J. "The Getty Kouros Colloquium in Athens." Minerva 4, no. 5 (September-October 1993), pp. 32-35, ill. pp. 32, 33, 34.

Gill, David W. J., and C. Chippendale. "Material and Intellectual Consequences of Esteem for Cycladic Figures." American Journal of Archaeology 97, no. 4 (October 1993), p. 607, n. 67.

Kokkou, Angeliki, ed. The Getty Kouros Colloquium: Athens, May 25-27, 1992 (Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation, Museum of Cycladic Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993).

Bianchi, Robert. "Saga of the Getty Kouros," Archaeology (May/June 1994), pp. 22-23, ill.

Elia, Ricardo. "A Corruption of the Record." Archaeology (May/June 1994), pp. 24-25, ill.

Rolley, Claude. La sculpture grecque (Paris: Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1994), p. 59, no. 9.

Serros, Richard D. Art and...Studies, Resources and Activities (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1997), pp. 87-93; fig. 5.1.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. Archaeology: Theories Methods and Practice (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000), pp. 556-57.

Renfrew, Colin. Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership (London: Duckworth, 2000), pp. 40-42, pl. 5.

Henchman, Michael. "Case Studies of the Geochemical Investigations of Art for Science and Science-and-Art Courses." Journal of Geoscience Education 48 (2000), pp. 292-94, 352, 294, 352; fig. 4.

Lapatin, Kenneth D. S. "Proof? The Case of the Getty Kouros." Source: Notes in the History of Art 20, no. 1 (Fall 2000), pp. 43-53.

Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and and Archaeology. 3rd ed. (London: Prentice Hall, 2002), p. 183, fig. 6.48.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), pp. 16-17.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 63, ill.

Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and Archaeology. 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2007), p. 184, fig. 6.55.

Sande, Siri. "The Getty Kouros and Other Anomalies." In Continuatio et renovatio. Siri Sande and Lasse Hodne, eds. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia 20 (2007), pp. 51-64, figs. 1-4.

Sutton, Peter C. et al., eds. Fakes and Forgeries: The Art of Deception, exh. cat. (Greenwich: Bruce Museum, 2007), p. 8, fig 1.

Gerstenblith, Patty. Art, Cultural Heritage, and the Law: Cases and Materials, 2nd ed. (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008), p. 388, fig. 7-1.

Kleemann, Ilse. "Zum Kuros Athen, NM 71 vom Kerameikos und den mitgefundenen Fragmenten," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archaologischen Instituts 123 (2008), pp. 31-34, 45, figs. 12a-b, 13a.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 17.

Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and and Archaeology. 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2012), p.181, fig. 6.55, p. 181.

Naerebout, Frederick G., and Henk W. Singor. Antiquity: Greeks and Romans in Context (Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2014), p. 118, fig. 16.b.

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