Feature

The Chimaera of Arezzo

A recently settled lawsuit has allowed the Getty Villa to exhibit the Chimaera of Arezzo, the fourth-century B.C. Etruscan masterpiece that is one of Italy's most prized artifacts.

Getty VillaMalibu, Calif.Through Feb. 8, 2010

Sometimes even scandals have a “silver lining,” said Diane Haithman in the Los Angeles Times. The Getty Villa recently settled a lawsuit brought by the Italian government, stemming from a curator’s acquisition of illegally smuggled artifacts. In exchange for the items’ return, Italy agreed to a temporary loan of several of the country’s most prized artifacts. Among the first to make the trip is the “fourth-century B.C. Etruscan masterpiece” known as the Chimaera of Arezzo,” said Emily Sharpe in The Art Newspaper. The bronze usually resides at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence, but here “forms the centerpiece of an exhibition exploring six centuries of representations of the mythical beast”—a fire-breathing meanie that’s part lion, part snake, part goat.

This timeless sculpture “shows how one masterpiece can be enough to anchor a thoroughly satisfying exhibition,” said Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times. Just over 4 feet long, it rises up on its haunches, “its front legs stretched out, talons unsheathed, like a wounded animal refusing surrender.” The skin pulls back tight over muscle, while shadows twist around the delicately articulated rib cage. “So the bodily motion goes down, back, up, left, and right, yielding a marvelously animated dynamism. At more than two millennia old, “this chomping, hissing, butting flamethrower is a hybrid as frighteningly improbable” as any monster at the multiplex. We don’t know the name of its creator. We only know he must have been “ a supremely gifted artist.”

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