Following three years of intense scholarly scrutiny and meticulous conservation, a rare and controversial ancient Greek marble sculpture--said to be one of the most important art acquisitions in America in the last 50 years--goes on public view Tuesday at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu.
The 6-foot-7-inch male nude figure, called a Kouros (young man), is of a type made in Greece from the 7th through the 5th centuries BC during the Archaic epoch. Dated by experts at about 530 BC, the 1,100-pound marble sculpture is one of only 13 well-preserved Kouros figures in existence. Museums around the world display more than 200 fragmentary works of a similar kind.
Placed on loan to the Getty in 1983, the statue was purchased in 1985 at an undisclosed price. The museum revealed the purchase in August to head off an emerging controversy about the figure's authenticity. Italian conservation expert Pico Cellini has voiced doubts about stylistic anomalies in the Getty Kouros, but a majority of other authorities have resoundingly declared confidence in the work.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the piece is its state of preservation. Arms, lower legs and feet had been broken off the sculpture hundreds of years ago, but only a few fragments were lost. The monumental young man now stands upright without visible means of support, benefiting from an innovative system devised by Jerry Podany, the museum's conservator of antiquities, and his staff.