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Getty Museum Exhibition to Rediscover Virtuoso Renaissance Sculptor Adriaen De Vries

October 12 through January 9, 2000
Location: Exhibitions Pavilion
Press Preview: Tuesday, October 12, 9-11 a.m.

September 7, 1999

LOS ANGELES-The J. Paul Getty Museum will provide the final venue and only showing in the United States of the exhibition Adriaen de Vries, Imperial Sculptor. A master of composition and technique little studied until now, de Vries (Dutch, 1556-1626) created spectacular bronzes with a pioneering approach to sculpture that foreshadowed the Baroque style in art.

The first international exhibition devoted to this major sculptor, Adriaen de Vries, Imperial Sculptor examines de Vries’ evolving style and reveals him as a technical virtuoso who emerged as one of the most progressive Northern European sculptors of his era and a precursor to such modern sculptors as August Rodin. De Vries produced bronzes for the most discerning princely patrons of the period, including Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II of Prague, for whom he became official court sculptor.

The exhibition assembles more than 40 bronzes as well as prints and drawings from collections in the United States and Europe. It was seen first at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, in 1998, where it was organized by Frits Scholten, curator of sculpture. It was then on view through August 29, 1999, at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, coordinated by Görel Cavalli-Björkman, curator of painting and sculpture. Peter Fusco, curator of sculpture and works of art at the Getty Museum, is responsible for the exhibition in Los Angeles.

"This major exhibition examining de Vries’ achievement is long overdue," said Fusco. "It will demonstrate to our audiences how de Vries accomplished for bronze sculpture what Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the greatest sculptor of the Baroque period, would later accomplish for marble. De Vries’ achievement is less well known in part because his works are found in cities such as Stockholm and Prague-places that were not on the traditional path of artists, collectors, and scholars on the Grand Tour of the European capitals such as Paris, Florence, and Rome. The exhibition will make clear the importance of de Vries’ work in the history of European sculpture."

In his day, de Vries was compared to Michelangelo, but within 80 years of his death he was forgotten. His reputation suffered partly because, with few exceptions, he produced only unique casts of his works, despite the fact that multiple copies of his bronzes would have helped spread his influence and fame. During the Thirty Years War, invading Swedish troops looted Prague, bringing much of de Vries’ work to Sweden and obscuring their original context. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the artist’s achievements began to be reassessed.

Among the exhibition highlights is Psyche Borne Aloft by Putti (1590-92, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm), the first large bronze that de Vries made for the Emperor in Prague. In it, the female figure seems airborne, each foot set well above the base and her smoothly modeled figure turning gently as putti bear her up to Olympus.

Rearing Horse (1605-10, J. Paul Getty Museum) is an expressive statuette of a spirited animal with such detailed musculature that its form seems to quiver with life. The work would have had a special appeal for the horse-loving Rudolf II.

Juggling Man (around 1610-15, J. Paul Getty Museum) is an enigmatic figure based on an ancient dancing faun. The piece was unknown until discovered in a residential garden in England, and then sold as a work of de Vries in 1989. The Getty Museum acquired it soon thereafter. With a plate in each hand, the smiling figure appears frozen in a crucial moment of his act. His arms whirl around while he pumps a bellows with his right leg.

A catalog, Adriaen de Vries, Imperial Sculptor, accompanies the exhibition, with entries and essays by Frits Scholten and other scholars on individual works by de Vries, drawings, technical aspects of casting bronze, and the relationship between de Vries' work and antiquity. The book contains 350 pages and 70 full-color illustrations, 400 in duotone. It is published in English, Dutch, and Swedish editions by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in association with Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle. ISBN: 89 236 5536. To order the hardcover book ($60) within the U.S., call 800-223-3431; outside the U.S., call 310-440-7333. The book is also available in the Museum bookstore or via the Internet at

The Department of Sculpture and Works of Art
The Getty is one of a handful of museums in the United States with a department focused on European sculpture and actively building a European sculpture collection. Established in 1984, the Department of Sculpture and Works of Art concentrates on European sculpture from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. One of its strengths is an important group of Renaissance and Baroque bronzes, including works by Adriaen de Vries. The department is also responsible for some areas of the Museum’s decorative arts collection.

Foundry to Finish: In the Studio of Adriaen de Vries (through April 9, 2000) examines de Vries’ one-of-a-kind casting technique and fascinating patination methods through a close analysis of Juggling Man. The exhibition includes dramatic video footage and models that explain, step-by-step, the stages of the casting process.

Art and Science: Joris Hoefnagel and the Representation of Nature in the Renaissance (October 12 though January 16, 2000) focuses on the hand-painted imagery of Mira calligraphiae monumenta, a model book of calligraphy illuminated by Hoefnagel for Emperor Rudolf II, who was patron to both de Vries and Hoefnagel.


Music from the Court of Rudolf II
Musica Angelica
(Part of the Gordon Getty Concert Series, Musical Portraiture, directed by UCLA’s Robert Winter)
Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.
Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Tickets ($20) available through Tickets LA at 323-655-TKTS, ext. 9.

Adriaen de Vries: Trailblazer of the Baroque
Dr. Frits Scholten, Curator of Sculpture, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.
Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Free; call 310-440-7300 for reservations.

Casting Methods of Adriaen de Vries
Robert Graham, sculptor
(Part of the Artist Series)
Thursday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.
Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Free; call 310-440-7300 for reservations.

European Sculpture Around 1600
Hosted by the Department of European Sculpture and Works of Art
International scholars to speak
Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 6
Registration fee $75; call 310-220-7300 to register.

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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