The J. Paul Getty Museum

Bust of J. Paul Getty

Object Details


Bust of J. Paul Getty


Pier Gabriele Vangelli (Italian, 1899 - 1987)




Italy (Place Created)





Object Number:



53.3 cm (21 in.)


Status undetermined

See more

See less

Object Description

Oil tycoon, collector, and philanthropist, J.Paul Getty sat for this marble bust in 1939 while in Rome. Getty was a great admirer of ancient art and deliberately chose the ancient format of a bust for this portrait. The use of marble also evokes the art of antiquity. At the time that he commissioned this portrait, Getty was avidly purchasing ancient Greek and Roman sculpture for his growing collection.

The sculptor, Pier Gabriele Vangelli, worked in a Neoclassical style. In the 1930s, when Modern art was becoming increasingly respected in the United States and Europe, Getty's choice of a Neoclassical style was intentionally conservative and academic. The simplicity of shapes; the ovoid head and perfectly symmetrically eyes; and the angular lines of Getty's suit, dress shirt, and tie project an emotionally detached coolness. Although Getty faces directly outward, his eyes are uncarved and blank, creating a startling sense of remove between him and viewer.

1939 - 1976

Purchased from the artist by J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, upon his death, held in trust by the estate; displayed at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu from 1954 and Los Angeles from 1997.

1976 - 1978

Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.


The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 8, fig. 8.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 2nd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988), p. 8, fig. 8.

Fusco, Peter. Summary Catalogue of European Sculpture in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 53, ill.

Lapatin, Kenneth. "La Villa Getty, la reconstitution d'une icône." Monumental (2010), pp. 72-75, figs. 1, 5, p. 72.

Lapatin, Kenneth. "The Getty Villa: Art, Architecture, and Aristocratic Self-Fashioning in the Mid-Twentieth Century." In Pompeii in the Public Imagination. Shelley Hales and Joanna Paul, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 273-74, fig. 44.