The J. Paul Getty Museum

Akroterion with Medusa

Object Details

Title:

Akroterion with Medusa

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

Etruscan

Place:

Etruria (Place Created)

Date:

300–275 B.C.

Medium:

Tufa

Object Number:

78.AA.10

Dimensions:

51 × 39 × 62.2 cm (20 1/16 × 15 3/8 × 24 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

A sculpture that once crowned an architectural facade, this block is carved with the image of the Gorgon Medusa. On top of her head, a pair of wings flank two bearded serpent heads with their tails intertwined and knotted at her neck. Medusa’s snaky locks are shown as thick wavy curls extending out from both sides of her face, which is that of a beautiful woman with deeply carved eyes and full, slightly parted lips. Projecting from the lower end of the protome is a large rectangular tenon for insertion into the masonry structure, allowing the apotropaic image to project at a slight downward angle and gaze upon viewers below. With the exception of pitting on the surface of the face and an abrasion on the top of the nose, the protome is intact. The back of the head lacks curls, which would not have been visible, and is roughly worked; the end of the tenon is broken off.

The function of this block with a protome carved fully in the round is evident from analogous surviving sculptures employed in both funeral chambers and civic buildings. Similar tufa gorgon heads decorated the façades of tomb monuments at Falerii Novi (the Tomba del Peccato) and Vulci (from Mandrione di Cavalupo). Other protomes, including Minerva, Jupiter, as well as male and female heads, decorated the Hellenistic gateways of Etruscan cities.

Provenance
Provenance
by 1977 - 1978

Pino Donati, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
The Making of a Hero: Alexander the Great from Antiquity to the Renaissance (October 22, 1996 to January 5, 1997)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 22, 1996 to January 5, 1997
Bibliography
Bibliography

Frel, Jiří. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum: A Checklist; Sculpture II: Greek Portraits and Varia (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, November 1979), p. 19, no. V20.

Del Chiaro, Mario. "A Monumental Etruscan Medusa Head." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, vol. 9 (1981), pp. 53-58, figs. 1-2.

Wealth of the Ancient World. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum. (Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum and Summa Publications, 1983), p. 87.

Krauskopf, I. "Gorgones (in Etruria)." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae IV, pt. 1 (1988), p. 335, no. 57.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. "Images of Alexander the Great in the Getty Museum," Studia Varia from the J. Paul Getty Museum 2, Occasional Papers on Antiquities 10 (2001), pp. 58-59, no. 5; figs. 5a-b.

Scala, Nicoletta. "Materiali scultorei volsiniesi e vulcenti di età ellenistica." Tra Orvieto e Vulci. Annali della Fondazione per il Museo «Claudio Faina» X (2003), p. 195.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 109, ill.

Maggiani, A. “Sculture in nenfro da Tarquinia,” in M. Fano Santi, ed. Studi di archeologia in onore di Gustavo Traversari, vol. 2 (Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider, 2004), pp. 605-21, fig. 13.

Steingräber, Stephan. “Figürlicher architektonischer Fassadenschmuck in Etrurien und sein Nachleben bis in die Moderne." In Italo - Tusco - Romana: Festschrift Für Luciana Aigner-Foresti Zum 70. Geburtstag Am 30. Juli 2006. Petra Amann et al. eds. (Vienna: Wien: Holzhausen, 2006), p. 337.

Steingräber, Stephan. “Etruskische Stadtgottheiten: Architektonischer Kontext, Ikonographie und Ideologie.” In Kulte – Riten – religiose Vorstellungen bei den Etruskern und ihr Verhaltnis zu Politik und Gesellschaft:  Akten der 1. Internationalen Tagung der Sektion Wien/Österreich des Istituto Nazionale di Studi Etruschi ed Italici (Wien, 4.-6. 12. 2008), Amann, Petra, ed. (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), p. 146, no. 16.

Ambrosini, L., “La Tomba del Pecatto di Falerii Novi. Riflessioni in margine a documenti inediti”, Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome 129-1 (2017), 293-313, 307, fig. 31.

Lyons, Claire L. "New Etruscan Gallery premieres at the Getty Villa." Etruscan News 20 (Winter 2018), p. 16, fig. 2.