Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale


Lamb of God

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

The presbytery.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Mosaic of Theodora


Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Apse mosaic.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Triumphal arch mosaics of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Mosaics of Justinianus I and Theodora.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale


Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

The “Basilica of San Vitale” is a church in Ravenna, Italy, and one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church has designated the building a “basilica”, the honorific title bestowed on church buildings of exceptional historic and ecclesial importance, although of course it is not of architectural basilica form. It is one of eight Ravenna structures inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The church was begun by Bishop Ecclesius in 526, when Ravenna was under the rule of the Ostrogoths and completed by the 27th Bishop of Ravenna, Maximian, in 547 preceding the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna.

The construction of the church was sponsored by Julius Argentarius, a Roman banker and architect, of whom very little is known, except that he also sponsored the construction of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe at around the same time.[1] (A donor portrait of the Julius Argentarius may appear among the courtiers on the Justinian mosaic.) The final cost amounted to 26,000 solidi (gold pieces).[2]

The central vault used a western technique of hollow tubes inserted into each other, rather than bricks. The ambulatory and gallery were vaulted only later in the Middle Ages.[3]

The Baroque fresco on the dome was made between 1778 and 1782 by S. Barozzi, U. Gandolfi and E. Guarana.[4]


Ground plan of the building
Mosaics of Justinianus I and Theodora.

The church has an octagonal plan. The building combines Roman elements: the dome, shape of doorways, and stepped towers; with Byzantine elements: polygonal apse, capitals, narrow bricks, and an early example of flying buttresses. The church is most famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside of Constantinople. The church is of extreme importance in Byzantine art, as it is the only major church from the period of the Emperor Justinian I to survive virtually intact to the present day. Furthermore, it is thought to reflect the design of the Byzantine Imperial Palace Audience Chamber, of which nothing at all survives. The belltower has four bells, the tenor one dates to the 16th century. According to legends, the church was erected on the site of the martyrdom of Saint Vitalis.[5] However, there is some confusion as to whether this is the Saint Vitalis of Milan, or the Saint Vitale whose body was discovered together with that of Saint Agricola, by Saint Ambrose in Bologna in 393.

Mosaic art

The presbytery.
Triumphal arch mosaics of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

The interior of San Vitale

The central section is surrounded by two superposed ambulatories. The upper one, the matrimoneum, was reserved for married women. A series of mosaics in the lunettes above the triforia depict sacrifices from the Old Testament:[6] the story of Abraham and Melchizedek, and the Sacrifice of Isaac; the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, Jeremiah and Isaiah, representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the story of Abel and Cain. A pair of angels, holding a medallion with a cross, crowns each lunette. On the side walls the corners, next to the mullioned windows, have mosaics of the Four Evangelists, under their symbols (angel, lion, ox and eagle), and dressed in white. Especially the portrayal of the lion is remarkable in its ferocity.

The cross-ribbed vault in the presbytery is richly ornamented with mosaic festoons of leaves, fruit and flowers, converging on a crown encircling the Lamb of God. The crown is supported by four angels, and every surface is covered with a profusion of flowers, stars, birds and animals, including many peacocks. Above the arch, on both sides, two angels hold a disc and beside them a representation of the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They symbolize the human race (Jerusalem representing the Jews, and Bethlehem the Gentiles).

All these mosaics are executed in the Hellenistic-Roman tradition: lively and imaginative, with rich colors and a certain perspective, and with a vivid depiction of the landscape, plants and birds. They were finished when Ravenna was still under Gothic rule. The apse is flanked by two chapels, the prothesis and the diaconicon, typical for Byzantine architecture.

Inside, the intrados of the great triumphal arch is decorated with fifteen mosaic medallions, depicting Jesus Christ, the twelve Apostles and Saint Gervasius and Saint Protasius, the sons of Saint Vitale. The theophany was begun in 525 under bishop Ecclesius. It has a great gold fascia with twining flowers, birds, and horns of plenty. Jesus Christ appears, seated on a blue globe in the summit of the vault, robed in purple, with his right hand offering the martyr’s crown to Saint Vitale. On the left, Bishop Ecclesius offers a model of the church.

Justinian and Theodora panels

Apse mosaic.
The mosaic of Emperor Justinian and his retinue.

Empress Theodora and attendants.

Ceiling mosaic above the presbytery.

At the foot of the apse side walls are two famous mosaic panels, executed in 547. On the right is a mosaic depicting the East Roman Emperor Justinian I, clad in Tyrian purple with a golden halo, standing next to court officials, Bishop Maximian, palatinae guards and deacons. The halo around his head gives him the same aspect as Christ in the dome of the apse. Justinian himself stands in the middle, with soldiers on his right and clergy on his left, emphasizing that Justinian is the leader of both church and state of his empire.

The gold background of the mosaic shows that Justinian and his entourage are inside the church. The figures are placed in a V shape; Justinian is placed in the front and in the middle to show his importance with Bishop Maximian on his left and lesser individuals being placed behind them. This placement can be seen through the overlapping feet of the individuals present in the mosaic.[7]

Another panel shows Empress Theodora solemn and formal, with golden halo, crown and jewels, and a train of court ladies. She is almost depicted as a goddess. As opposed to the V formation of the figures in the Justinian mosaic, the mosaic with Empress Theodora shows the figures moving from left to right into the church. Theodora is seen holding the wine.

See also

External video
Lamb of God (San Vitale).jpg
Byzantine Art: San Vitale, Ravenna, Smarthistory[8]


Giacobbe Giusti,

Giacobbe Giusti, Column of Marcus Aurelius


Giacobbe Giusti, Column of Marcus Aurelius


Giacobbe Giusti, Column of Marcus Aurelius


Giacobbe Giusti, Column of Marcus Aurelius

Eretta nel 180 d.C. dall’imperatore Commodo (161-192) in onore del padre, l’imperatore Marco Aurelio, la Colonna Antonina presenta numerosi rilievi di cui alcuni dettagli sono stati fotografati in questa immagine: i soldati romani sono qui raffigurati nell’atto di un rituale per la pira funeraria. Marco Aurelio (121-180), noto per aver combattuto i parti, i quadi e i marcomanni (166-180), fu anche un filosofo stoico, difatti ci ha lasciato i Ricordi (o Colloqui con se stesso ). Sulla Colonna Antonina ci sono scolpiti gli episodi delle sue imprese.

The Column of Marcus Aurelius (Latin: Columna Centenaria Divorum Marci et Faustinae, Italian: Colonna di Marco Aurelio) is a Roman victory column in Piazza Colonna, Rome, Italy. It is a Doric column featuring a spiral relief: it was built in honour of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and modeled on Trajan’s Column.


Because the original dedicatory inscription has been destroyed, it is not known whether it was built during the emperor’s reign (on the occasion of the triumph over the Marcomanni, Quadi and Sarmatians in the year 176) or after his death in 180; however, an inscription found in the vicinity attests that the column was completed by 193.

In terms of the topography of ancient Rome, the column stood on the north part of the Campus Martius, in the centre of a square. This square was either between the temple of Hadrian (probably the Hadrianeum) and the temple of Marcus Aurelius (dedicated by his son Commodus, of which nothing now remains – it was probably on the site of Palazzo Wedekind), or within the latter’s sacred precinct, of which nothing remains. Nearby is the site where the emperor’s cremation occurred.

The column’s shaft is 29.62 metres (97.2 ft) high, on a ca. 10.1-metre (33 ft) high base, which in turn originally stood on a 3 metres (9.8 ft) high platform – the column in total is 39.72 metres (130.3 ft)[1] About 3 metres of the base have been below ground level since the 1589 restoration.

The column consists of 27 or 28 blocks of Carrara marble, each of 3.7 metres (12 ft) diameter, hollowed out whilst still at the quarry for a stairway of 190-200 steps within the column up to a platform at the top. Just as with Trajan’s Column, this stairway is illuminated through narrow slits into the relief.


German council of war – considered an early evidence to what would become known as the Thing (assembly).

The spiral picture relief tells the story of Marcus Aurelius’ Danubian or Marcomannic wars, waged by him from 166 to his death. The story begins with the army crossing the river Danube, probably at Carnuntum. A Victory separates the accounts of two expeditions. The exact chronology of the events is disputed; however, the latest theory states that the expeditions against the Marcomanni and Quadi in the years 172 and 173 are in the lower half and the successes of the emperor over the Sarmatians in the years 174 and 175 in the upper half.

One particular episode portrayed is historically attested in Roman propaganda – the so-called “rain miracle in the territory of the Quadi”, in which a god, answering a prayer from the emperor, rescues Roman troops by a terrible storm, a miracle later claimed by the Christians for the Christian God.[2]

In spite of many similarities to Trajan’s column, the style is entirely different, a forerunner of the dramatic style of the 3rd century and closely related to the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, erected soon after. The figures’ heads are disproportionately large so that the viewer can better interpret their facial expressions. The images are carved less finely than at Trajan’s Column, through drilling holes more deeply into the stone, so that they stand out better in a contrast of light and dark. As villages are burned down, women and children are captured and displaced, men are killed, the emotion, despair, and suffering of the “barbarians” in the war, are represented acutely in single scenes and in the figures’ facial expressions and gestures, whilst the emperor is represented as protagonist, in control of his environment.

The symbolic language is altogether clearer and more expressive, if clumsier at first sight, and leaves a wholly different impression on the viewer to the whole artistic style of 100 to 150 as on Trajan’s column. There, cool and sober balance – here, drama and empathy. The pictorial language is unambiguous – imperial dominance and authority is emphasized, and its leadership is justified. Overall, it is an anticipation of the development of artistic style into late antiquity, and a first artistic expression of the crisis of the Roman empire that would worsen in the 3rd century.



Giacobbe Giusti, Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa

Giacobbe Giusti, Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa

See adjacent text.



Mona Lisa

This article is about the painting. For other uses, see Mona Lisa (disambiguation).
Mona Lisa
Italian: La Gioconda, French: La Joconde


See adjacent text.
Artist Leonardo da Vinci
Year c. 1503–06, perhaps continuing until c. 1517
Type Oil
Medium Populus
Subject Possibly Lisa Gherardini
Dimensions 77 cm × 53 cm (30 in × 21 in)
Location Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Mona Lisa (/ˌmnə ˈlsə/; Italian: Monna Lisa [ˈmɔnna ˈliːza] or La Gioconda [la dʒoˈkonda], French: La Joconde [la ʒɔkɔ̃d]) is a half-length portrait of a woman by the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, which has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”.[1]

The painting, thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.[2]

The subject’s expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic,[3] the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modelling of forms, and the atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing fascination and study of the work.[4]

Title and subject

Main article: Lisa del Giocondo

The title of the painting, which is known in English as Mona Lisa, comes from a description by Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari, who wrote “Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife.”[5][6] Mona in Italian is a polite form of address originating as ma donna – similar to Ma’am, Madam, or my lady in English. This became madonna, and its contraction mona. The title of the painting, though traditionally spelled “Mona” (as used by Vasari[5]), is also commonly spelled in modern Italian as Monna Lisa (“mona” being a vulgarity in some Italian dialects) but this is rare in English.[citation needed]

Vasari’s account of the Mona Lisa comes from his biography of Leonardo published in 1550, 31 years after the artist’s death. It has long been the best-known source of information on the provenance of the work and identity of the sitter. Leonardo’s assistant Salaì, at his death in 1525, owned a portrait which in his personal papers was named la Gioconda, a painting bequeathed to him by Leonardo.

That Leonardo painted such a work, and its date, were confirmed in 2005 when a scholar at Heidelberg University discovered a marginal note in a 1477 printing of a volume written by the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero. Dated October 1503, the note was written by Leonardo’s contemporary Agostino Vespucci. This note likens Leonardo to renowned Greek painter Apelles, who is mentioned in the text, and states that Leonardo was at that time working on a painting of Lisa del Giocondo.[7]

A margin note by Agostino Vespucci (visible at right) discovered in a book at Heidelberg University. Dated 1503, it states that Leonardo was working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.

The model, Lisa del Giocondo,[8][9] was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany, and the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo.[10] The painting is thought to have been commissioned for their new home, and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea.[11] The Italian name for the painting, La Gioconda, means “jocund” (“happy” or “jovial”) or, literally, “the jocund one”, a pun on the feminine form of Lisa’s married name, “Giocondo”.[10][12] In French, the title La Joconde has the same meaning.

Before that discovery, scholars had developed several alternative views as to the subject of the painting. Some argued that Lisa del Giocondo was the subject of a different portrait, identifying at least four other paintings as the Mona Lisa referred to by Vasari.[13][14] Several other women have been proposed as the subject of the painting.[15] Isabella of Aragon,[16] Cecilia Gallerani,[17] Costanza d’Avalos, Duchess of Francavilla,[15] Isabella d’Este, Pacifica Brandano or Brandino, Isabela Gualanda, Caterina Sforza—even Salaì and Leonardo himself—are all among the list of posited models portrayed in the painting.[18][19] The consensus of art historians in the 21st century maintains the long-held traditional opinion, that the painting depicts Lisa del Giocondo.[7]


Main article: Leonardo da Vinci

Presumed self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci, executed in red chalk sometime between 1512 and 1515

Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in Florence, Italy.[20] Although the Louvre states that it was “doubtless painted between 1503 and 1506”,[4] the art historian Martin Kemp says there are some difficulties in confirming the actual dates with certainty.[10] According to Leonardo’s contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, “after he had lingered over it four years, [he] left it unfinished”.[6] Leonardo, later in his life, is said to have regretted “never having completed a single work”.[21]

In 1516, Leonardo was invited by King François I to work at the Clos Lucé near the king’s castle in Amboise. It is believed that he took the Mona Lisa with him and continued to work after he moved to France.[18] Art historian Carmen C. Bambach has concluded that da Vinci probably continued refining the work until 1516 or 1517.[22]

Upon his death, the painting was inherited with other works by his pupil and assistant Salaì.[10] Francis I bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Palace of Fontainebleau, where it remained until Louis XIV moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre, but spent a brief period in the bedroom of Napoleon in the Tuileries Palace.

During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) it was moved from the Louvre to the Brest Arsenal.[23] During World War II, the painting was again removed from the Louvre and taken safely, first to Château d’Amboise, then to the Loc-Dieu Abbey and Château de Chambord, then finally to the Ingres Museum in Montauban.

In December 2015, it was reported that French scientist Pascal Cotte had found a hidden portrait underneath the surface of the painting using reflective light technology.[24] The portrait is an underlying image of a model looking off to the side.[25] Having been given access to the painting by Louvre in 2004, Cotte spent ten years using layer amplification methods to study the painting.[24] According to Cotte, the underlying image is Leonardo’s original Mona Lisa.[24][26]

Theft and vandalism

“La Joconde est Retrouvée” (“Mona Lisa is Found”), Le Petit Parisien, 13 December 1913

Vacant wall in the Salon Carré, Louvre after the painting was stolen in 1911

On 21 August 1911, the painting was stolen from the Louvre.[27] The next day, painter Louis Béroud walked into the museum and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years, only to find four iron pegs on the wall. Béroud contacted the head of the guards, who thought the painting was being photographed for promotional purposes. A few hours later, Béroud checked back with the Section Chief of the Louvre who confirmed that the Mona Lisa was not with the photographers. The Louvre was closed for an entire week during the investigation.

The Mona Lisa on display in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, 1913. Museum director Giovanni Poggi (right) inspects the painting.

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had once called for the Louvre to be “burnt down”, came under suspicion and was arrested and imprisoned. Apollinaire implicated his friend Pablo Picasso, who was brought in for questioning. Both were later exonerated.[28][29] Two years later the thief was found. Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia had stolen the Mona Lisa by entering the building during regular hours, hiding in a broom closet, and walking out with it hidden under his coat after the museum had closed.[12] Peruggia was an Italian patriot who believed da Vinci’s painting should have been returned for display in an Italian museum. Peruggia may have also been motivated by a friend whose copies of the original would significantly rise in value after the painting’s theft. A later account suggested Eduardo de Valfierno had been the mastermind of the theft and had commissioned forger Yves Chaudron to create six copies of the painting to sell in the U.S. while the location of the original was unclear.[30] However, the original painting remained in Europe. After having kept the Mona Lisa in his apartment for two years, Peruggia grew impatient and was caught when he attempted to sell it to directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It was exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery for over two weeks and returned to the Louvre on 4 January 1914.[31] Peruggia served six months in prison for the crime and was hailed for his patriotism in Italy.[29] Before its theft, the Mona Lisa was not widely known outside the art world. It was not until the 1860s that some critics, a thin slice of the French intelligentsia, began to hail it as a masterwork of Renaissance painting.[32]

In 1956, part of the painting was damaged when a vandal threw acid at it.[33] On 30 December of that year, a speck of pigment near the left elbow was damaged when a rock was thrown at the painting, which was later restored.[34]

The use of bulletproof glass has shielded the Mona Lisa from subsequent attacks. In April 1974, a woman, upset by the museum’s policy for disabled people, sprayed red paint at it while it was being displayed at the Tokyo National Museum.[35] On 2 August 2009, a Russian woman, distraught over being denied French citizenship, threw a ceramic teacup purchased at the Louvre; the vessel shattered against the glass enclosure.[36][37] In both cases, the painting was undamaged.


Detail of the background (right side)

The Mona Lisa bears a strong resemblance to many Renaissance depictions of the Virgin Mary, who was at that time seen as an ideal for womanhood.[38]

The depiction of the sitter in three-quarter profile is similar to late 15th-century works by Lorenzo di Credi and Agnolo di Domenico del Mazziere.[38] Zöllner notes that the sitter’s general position can be traced back to Flemish models and that “in particular the vertical slices of columns at both sides of the panel had precedents in Flemish portraiture.”[39] Woods-Marsden cites Hans Memling’s portrait of Benededetto Portinari (1487) or Italian imitations such as Sebastiano Mainardi’s pendant portraits for the use of a loggia, which has the effect of mediating between the sitter and the distant landscape, a feature missing from Leonardo’s earlier portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci.[40]

The woman sits markedly upright in a “pozzetto” armchair with her arms folded, a sign of her reserved posture. Her gaze is fixed on the observer. The woman appears alive to an unusual extent, which Leonardo achieved by his method of not drawing outlines (sfumato). The soft blending creates an ambiguous mood “mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes”.[41]

Detail of Lisa’s hands, her right hand resting on her left. Leonardo chose this gesture rather than a wedding ring to depict Lisa as a virtuous woman and faithful wife.[42]

The painting was one of the first portraits to depict the sitter in front of an imaginary landscape, and Leonardo was one of the first painters to use aerial perspective.[43] The enigmatic woman is portrayed seated in what appears to be an open loggia with dark pillar bases on either side. Behind her, a vast landscape recedes to icy mountains. Winding paths and a distant bridge give only the slightest indications of human presence. Leonardo has chosen to place the horizon line not at the neck, as he did with Ginevra de’ Benci, but on a level with the eyes, thus linking the figure with the landscape and emphasizing the mysterious nature of the painting.[40]

Mona Lisa has no clearly visible eyebrows or eyelashes. Some researchers claim that it was common at this time for genteel women to pluck these hairs, as they were considered unsightly.[44][45] In 2007, French engineer Pascal Cotte announced that his ultra-high resolution scans of the painting provide evidence that Mona Lisa was originally painted with eyelashes and with visible eyebrows, but that these had gradually disappeared over time, perhaps as a result of overcleaning.[46] Cotte discovered the painting had been reworked several times, with changes made to the size of the Mona Lisa’s face and the direction of her gaze. He also found that in one layer the subject was depicted wearing numerous hairpins and a headdress adorned with pearls which was later scrubbed out and overpainted.[47]

There has been much speculation regarding the painting’s model and landscape. For example, Leonardo probably painted his model faithfully since her beauty is not seen as being among the best, “even when measured by late quattrocento (15th century) or even twenty-first century standards.”[48] Some art historians in Eastern art, such as Yukio Yashiro, argue that the landscape in the background of the picture was influenced by Chinese paintings,[49] but this thesis has been contested for lack of clear evidence.[49]

Research in 2008 by a geomorphology professor at Urbino University and an artist-photographer revealed likenesses of Mona Lisas landscapes to some views in the Montefeltro region in the Italian provinces of Pesaro, Urbino and Rimini.[50][51]


The Mona Lisa has survived for more than 500 years, and an international commission convened in 1952 noted that “the picture is in a remarkable state of preservation.”[52] This is partly due to a variety of conservation treatments the painting has undergone. A detailed analysis in 1933 by Madame de Gironde revealed that earlier restorers had “acted with a great deal of restraint.”[52] Nevertheless, applications of varnish made to the painting had darkened even by the end of the 16th century, and an aggressive 1809 cleaning and revarnishing removed some of the uppermost portion of the paint layer, resulting in a washed-out appearance to the face of the figure. Despite the treatments, the Mona Lisa has been well cared for throughout its history, and although the panel’s warping caused the curators “some worry”,[53] the 2004–05 conservation team was optimistic about the future of the work.[52]

Poplar panel

At some point, the Mona Lisa was removed from its original frame. The unconstrained poplar panel warped freely with changes in humidity, and as a result, a crack developed near the top of the panel, extending down to the hairline of the figure. In the mid-18th century to early 19th century, two butterfly-shaped walnut braces were inserted into the back of the panel to a depth of about one third the thickness of the panel. This intervention was skilfully executed, and successfully stabilized the crack. Sometime between 1888 and 1905, or perhaps during the picture’s theft, the upper brace fell out. A later restorer glued and lined the resulting socket and crack with cloth.[citation needed]

The picture is kept under strict, climate-controlled conditions in its bulletproof glass case. The humidity is maintained at 50% ±10%, and the temperature is maintained between 18 and 21 °C. To compensate for fluctuations in relative humidity, the case is supplemented with a bed of silica gel treated to provide 55% relative humidity.[52]


Because the Mona Lisa’s poplar support expands and contracts with changes in humidity, the picture has experienced some warping. In response to warping and swelling experienced during its storage during World War II, and to prepare the picture for an exhibit to honour the anniversary of Leonardo’s 500th birthday, the Mona Lisa was fitted in 1951 with a flexible oak frame with beech crosspieces. This flexible frame, which is used in addition to the decorative frame described below, exerts pressure on the panel to keep it from warping further. In 1970, the beech crosspieces were switched to maple after it was found that the beechwood had been infested with insects. In 2004–05, a conservation and study team replaced the maple crosspieces with sycamore ones, and an additional metal crosspiece was added for scientific measurement of the panel’s warp.[citation needed]

The Mona Lisa has had many different decorative frames in its history, owing to changes in taste over the centuries. In 1909, the Comtesse de Béhague gave the portrait its current frame,[54] a Renaissance-era work consistent with the historical period of the Mona Lisa. The edges of the painting have been trimmed at least once in its history to fit the picture into various frames, but no part of the original paint layer has been trimmed.[52]

Cleaning and touch-up

The first and most extensive recorded cleaning, revarnishing, and touch-up of the Mona Lisa was an 1809 wash and revarnishing undertaken by Jean-Marie Hooghstoel, who was responsible for restoration of paintings for the galleries of the Musée Napoléon. The work involved cleaning with spirits, touch-up of colour, and revarnishing the painting. In 1906, Louvre restorer Eugène Denizard performed watercolour retouches on areas of the paint layer disturbed by the crack in the panel. Denizard also retouched the edges of the picture with varnish, to mask areas that had been covered initially by an older frame. In 1913, when the painting was recovered after its theft, Denizard was again called upon to work on the Mona Lisa. Denizard was directed to clean the picture without solvent, and to lightly touch up several scratches to the painting with watercolour. In 1952, the varnish layer over the background in the painting was evened out. After the second 1956 attack, restorer Jean-Gabriel Goulinat was directed to touch up the damage to Mona Lisa’s left elbow with watercolour.[52]

In 1977, a new insect infestation was discovered in the back of the panel as a result of crosspieces installed to keep the painting from warping. This was treated on the spot with carbon tetrachloride, and later with an ethylene oxide treatment. In 1985, the spot was again treated with carbon tetrachloride as a preventive measure.[52]


Mona Lisa behind bulletproof glass at the Louvre Museum

On 6 April 2005—following a period of curatorial maintenance, recording, and analysis—the painting was moved to a new location within the museum’s Salle des États. It is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bulletproof glass.[55] Since 2005 the painting has been illuminated by an LED lamp, and in 2013 a new 20 watt LED lamp was installed, specially designed for this painting. The lamp has a Colour Rendering Index up to 98, and minimizes infrared and ultraviolet radiation which could otherwise degrade the painting.[56] The renovation of the gallery where the painting now resides was financed by the Japanese broadcaster Nippon Television.[57] About 6 million people view the painting at the Louvre each year.[18]


2014: Mona Lisa is among the greatest attractions in the Louvre

Today the Mona Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world, but until the 20th century it was one among many highly regarded artworks.[58] Once part of King Francis I of France‘s collection, the Mona Lisa was among the very first artworks to be exhibited in Louvre, which became a national museum after the French Revolution. From the 19th century Leonardo began to be revered as a genius and the painting’s popularity grew from the mid-19th century when French intelligentsia developed a theme that it was somehow mysterious and a representation of the femme fatal.[59] In 1878, the Baedeker guide called it “the most celebrated work of Leonardo in the Louvre”.[60] but it was known more by the intellectual elite than the general public.

US President John F. Kennedy, Madeleine Malraux, André Malraux, Jacqueline Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson at the unveiling of the Mona Lisa at the National Gallery of Art during its visit to Washington D.C., 8 January 1963

The 1911 theft and the subsequent return was reported worldwide, leading to a massive increase in public recognition of the painting. During the 20th century it was an object for mass reproduction, merchandising, lampooning and speculation, and was claimed to have been reproduced in “300 paintings and 2,000 advertisements”.[60]

From December 1962 to March 1963, the French government lent it to the United States to be displayed in New York City and Washington, D.C.[61] It was shipped on the new liner SS France. In New York an estimated 1.7 million people queued “in order to cast a glance at the Mona Lisa for 20 seconds or so.”[60] In 1974, the painting was exhibited in Tokyo and Moscow.[62]

In 2014, 9.3 million people visited the Louvre,[63] Former director Henri Loyrette reckoned that “80 percent of the people only want to see the Mona Lisa.”[64]


Before the 1962–63 tour, the painting was assessed for insurance at $100 million. The insurance was not bought. Instead, more was spent on security.[65] Adjusted for inflation using the US Consumer Price Index, $100 million in 1962 is around US$782 million in 2015[66] making it, in practice, by far the most valued painting in the world.

In 2014 a France 24 article suggested that the painting could be sold to help ease the national debt, although it was noted that the Mona Lisa and other such art works were prohibited from being sold due to French heritage law, which states that “Collections held in museums that belong to public bodies are considered public property and cannot be otherwise.”[67]

Raphael’s Young Woman with Unicorn, (c. 1506)
Raphael’s Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (c. 1514–15)
Le rire (The Laugh) by Eugène Bataille, or Sapeck (1883)


Before its completion the Mona Lisa had already begun to influence contemporary Florentine painting. Raphael, who had been to Leonardo’s workshop several times, promptly used elements of the portrait’s composition and format in several of his works, such as Young Woman with Unicorn (c. 1506[68]), and Portrait of Maddalena Doni (c. 1506). Celebrated later paintings by Raphael, La velata (1515–16) and Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (c. 1514–15), continued to borrow from Leonardo’s painting. Zollner states that “None of Leonardo’s works would exert more influence upon the evolution of the genre than the Mona Lisa. It became the definitive example of the Renaissance portrait and perhaps for this reason is seen not jut as the likeness of a real person, but also as the embodiment of an ideal.”[69]

Early commentators such as Vasari and André Félibien praised the picture for its realism, but by the Victorian era writers began to regard the Mona Lisa as imbued with a sense of mystery and romance. In 1859 Théophile Gautier wrote that the Mona Lisa was a “sphinx of beauty who smiles so mysteriously” and that “Beneath the form expressed one feels a thought that is vague, infinite, inexpressible. One is moved, troubled … repressed desires, hopes that drive one to despair, stir painfully.” Walter Pater‘s famous essay of 1869 described the sitter as “older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in the deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her.”[70] By the early 20th century some critics started to feel the painting had become a repository for subjective exegeses and theories,[71] and upon the paintings theft in 1911, Renaissance historian Bernard Berenson admitted that it had “simply become an incubus, and I was glad to be rid of her.”[71][72]

The avant-garde art world has made note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisas popularity. Because of the painting’s overwhelming stature, Dadaists and Surrealists often produce modifications and caricatures. Already in 1883, Le rire, an image of a Mona Lisa smoking a pipe, by Sapeck (Eugène Bataille), was shown at the “Incoherents” show in Paris. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential modern artists, created L.H.O.O.Q., a Mona Lisa parody made by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and goatee. Duchamp added an inscription, which when read out loud in French sounds like “Elle a chaud au cul” meaning: “she has a hot ass”, implying the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and intended as a Freudian joke.[73] According to Rhonda R. Shearer, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modelled on Duchamp’s own face.[74]

Salvador Dalí, famous for his surrealist work, painted Self portrait as Mona Lisa in 1954.[75] In 1963 following the painting’s visit to the United States, Andy Warhol created serigraph prints of multiple Mona Lisas called Thirty are Better than One, like his works of Marilyn Monroe (Twenty-five Coloured Marilyns, 1962), Elvis Presley (1964) and Campbell’s soup (1961–62).[76] The Mona Lisa continues to inspire artists around the world. A French urban artist known pseudonymously as Invader has created versions on city walls in Paris and Tokyo using his trademark mosaic style.[77] A collection of Mona Lisa parodies may be found on YouTube.[78] A 2014 New Yorker magazine cartoon parodies the supposed enigma of the Mona Lisa smile in an animation showing progressively maniacal smiles.

Early copies

Prado Museum La Gioconda

A version of Mona Lisa known as Mujer de mano de Leonardo Abince (“Leonardo da Vinci’s handy-woman”) held in Madrid’s Museo del Prado was for centuries considered to be a work by Leonardo. However, since its restoration in 2012 it is considered to have been executed by one of Leonardo’s pupils in his studio at the same time as Mona Lisa was being painted.[79] Their conclusion, based on analysis obtained after the picture underwent extensive restoration, that the painting is probably by Salaì (1480-1524) or by Melzi (1493-1572). This has been called into question by others.[80]

The restored painting is from a slightly different perspective than the original Mona Lisa, leading to the speculation that it is part of the world’s first stereoscopic pair.[81][82][83]

Isleworth Mona Lisa

Main article: Isleworth Mona Lisa

A version of the Mona Lisa known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa was first bought by an English nobleman in 1778 and was rediscovered in 1913 by Hugh Blaker, an art connoisseur. The painting was presented to the media in 2012 by the Mona Lisa Foundation.[84] The owners claim that Leonardo contributed to the painting, a theory that Leonardo experts such as Zöllner and Kemp deny has any substance.[85]


Giacobbe Giusti, Cimabue, The Crucifixion, c. 1277-80, fresco. Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Giacobbe Giusti, Cimabue, The Crucifixion, c. 1277-80, fresco. Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi




Crocifissione del transetto sinistro

Crocifissione del transetto sinistro
Crocifissione del transetto sinistro
Autore Cimabue
Data 12771283 circa
Tecnica affresco
Dimensioni circa 350×300 cm
Ubicazione Basilica superiore di San Francesco, Assisi

L’immagine al negativo

La Crocifissione del transetto sinistro è un affresco (circa 350×300 cm) di Cimabue e aiuti, databile attorno al 12771283 circa e conservato nella basilica superiore di San Francesco di Assisi. La scena è accoppiata simmetricamente alla Crocifissione del transetto destro, dall’altro lato.


La datazione degli affreschi di Cimabue è piuttosto discorde, sebbene negli studi più recenti si sia assestata a un periodo tra il 1277, anno dell’elezione al soglio pontificio di Niccolò III e il 1283 circa. La zona del transetto sinistro è decorata dalle Storie apocalittiche.

Per questa scena, forse la più notevole dell’intero ciclo, non è mai stata messa in dubbio l’autografia del maestro[1].

Gli affreschi di Cimabue sono in generale in condizioni mediocri o pessime. Non fa eccezione questa Crocifissione, che dovette essere una delle scene più importanti dell’intero ciclo, e che oggi si presenta sfigurata da abrasioni (in parte colmate dall’ultimo restauro) e con i colori quasi invertiti in negativo, per l’ossidazione della biacca dei colori chiari, diventati oggi scuri. Nella zona inferiore esistono tuttavia alcuni brani coi colori originali ancora visibili.

Descrizione e stile

Possibile autoritratto di Cimabue

Il Cristo

Cristo sulla Croce si erge al centro del dipinto, vistosamente inarcato verso sinistra, come nelle note croci lignee sagomate di Cimabue. La metà superiore, celeste, è affollata d’angeli che manifestano tutto il loro dolore, volando in cerchio attorno al braccio breve della croce, coprendosi il viso piangente, alzando le mani al cielo, e raccogliendo pietosamente il sangue di Gesù con delle ciotole. Questi angeli saranno tenuti ben presenti da Giotto nella sua celebre Crocifissione della Cappella degli Scrovegni. Il capo del Cristo è particolarmente dolente, proteso in avanti anziché adagiato del tutto sulla spalla come nelle croci di Arezzo e di Firenze. Le braccia non sono parallele alla croce, ma se ne distaccano significando tutto il peso del martirio in corso.

Gli astanti

Nella metà inferiore, terrestre, il ritmo è reso altamente tragico dal triangolo di linee di forza, dato dalle pose drammatiche delle due figure ai lati della croce, la Maddalena a destra che distende le braccia e un ebreo che allunga il braccio quasi a toccare il perizoma prolungato di Cristo, che simboleggia il riconoscimento della figura di divina di Cristo da parte di alcuni astanti. Addirittura la Maddalena solleva anche un ginocchio, come se volesse lanciarsi sulla croce accanto a Gesù. Scrisse Adolfo Venturi: «non è più il crocifisso con ai lati le figure simmetriche del portaspugna e del portalancia, né quello con le istorie del suo martirio su un cartellone! Nuova è la scena in cui il dolore e l’odio irrompono da anime forti, le grida contrastano roboanti, i sentimenti si urtano nella tempesta del cielo e della terra». Nella lunga coda del perizoma, una novità iconografica, si moltiplicano le pieghe e le scanalature, con una tendenza al realismo senza schematizzazioni, verso un recupero del classicismo[1].

Ai lati si distendono due gruppi di figure. Quello di sinistra mostra Maria con la mano al petto, nel gesto tipico del dolente, mentre Giovanni le prende la mano per prendersene cura da allora in poi, secondo un episodio narrato solo nel Vangelo di Giovanni. Seguono le tre Marie e una folla di personaggi in secondo piano, tra cui si riconoscono numerosi uomini col capo coperto, gli Ebrei.

A destra invece si mischiano soldati romani ed ebrei, nelle loro espressioni di perplessità (c’è chi si tocca la barba) e di scherno, ma qualcuno accenna a un ripensamento, portando un dito alla bocca in segno di dubbio, e afferrandosi il polso per indicare l’impotenza. Uno addirittura si batte il petto in segno di pentimento, seguendo un passo del Vangelo di Luca (23, 47). Tra queste figure, il volto giovanile dietro al centurione è pressoché identico a un personaggio nell’Imposizione del nome al Battista nei mosaici del Battistero di Firenze (che per questo fu attribuita a Cimabue). L’ultimo volto a destra in prima fila è molto caratterizzato fisiognomicamente, a differenza degli altri, ed è stato ipotizzato che si tratti di un autoritratto del pittore.

Il pittore mise i personaggi uno dietro l’altro per dare idea di profondità, ma non seppe risolvere il conflitto di come essi poggiassero al suolo: ecco che i pochi piedi dipinti (solo per le figure in primo piano), si pestano uno sull’altro, come nei mosaici bizantini di San Vitale a Ravenna. I pochi colori originari superstiti, sopravvissuti proprio in questa zona, dimostrano una grande raffinatezza, che doveva da un effetto di delicata magnificenza: rosa, ocra, verde marcio, marrone. Qui dopotutto era in corso la realizzazione della “più straordinaria visione di forme e di splendori che artisti siano mai riusciti ad attuare” fino ad allora[1].

San Francesco

Alla base di questo triangolo sta rannicchiato san Francesco, che è riconoscibile dalle stimmate e che si bagna col sangue di Cristo che scorre sulla montagnola del Golgota fino al teschio nascosto di Adamo. Francesco appare qui come intermediario tra l’evento sacro e il fedele[2]. La sua presenza è stata interpretata anche come simbolo delle tribolazioni dell’ordine francescano secondo le dottrine apocalittiche di Pietro Olivi e Gioacchino da Fiore, come a dire che far soffrire Francesco e i suoi seguaci è come crocifiggere il Cristo una seconda volta[1].

Il gruppo di destra (negativo)

Alcuni spiegano così la doppia presenza della Crocifissione nella basilica superiore[3].

La questione di Longino

L’uomo che riconosce Cristo, col capo velato (quindi ebreo) impugna il bastone del comando ed ha già il nimbo di santo: difficile è capire se è per Cimabue san Longino, oppure se il fiorentino tenga distaccate le figure del centurione illuminato (per quanto ebreo) e di colui che trafisse Gesù con la lancia; dopotutto la raffigurazione esplicita del soldato con la lancia nella Crocifissione del transetto destro è priva di nimbo. Un uomo con la lancia compare però dietro di lui, e gli fa eco tenendo una posizione analoga col braccio disteso: è forse lui Longino o è un inserviente? Le altre due figure ai lati l’uomo con l’aureola, in un elegante contrapposto simmetrico, inoltre impugnano scudo e lancia: sembra che Cimabue abbia voluto disarmare quella figura per sottolinearne agiograficamente la virtù senza impacci guerreschi[4]. Secondo Chiara Frugoni l’uomo in primo piano è san Longino (che non è infrequente trovare rappresentato ora come ebreo ora come romano), mentre l’uomo che gli fa eco è un altro ebreo che illustra il passo del Vangelo di Luca, in cui si descrive il pentimento di una parte degli Ebrei[5].

In ogni caso, ammettere un santo tra i giudei che furono responsabili della crocifissione di Cristo (secondo la tradizione antigiudaica da san Giovanni in poi) rappresenta un’apertura verso il mondo giudaico fino ad allora senza precedenti, spiegabile forse con l’opera di redenzione ed evangelizzazione universale portata avanti dai Francescani[6]. Duccio di Buoninsegna ad esempio, nella Crocifissione della Maestà del Duomo di Siena, copiò la figura del riconoscitore di Cristo da Cimabue, ma ne omise il nimbo, facendolo ripriombare nell’anonimato della folla tumultuante[6]. A tale ipotesi di accoglienza francescana può legarsi anche scelta di includere la preminenza della figura della Maddalena, la prostituta pentita[5]. Il messaggio di Cristo sembra così dare i suoi primi frutti già appena dopo la Crocifissione, cone le prime conversioni spontanee, allargandosi poi idealmente nell’espansione della comunità credente attuata tramite gli Evangelisti, poi tramite la Chiesa e infine arrivando a Francesco, il “nuovo evangelista”[7], raffigurato ai piedi della croce[8].

Appare quindi un messaggio di speranza, che può riscattare anche chi ha errato, invece di condannarlo insindacabilmente[9].



Giacobbe Giusti: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World

Giacobbe Giusti: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World



by Mike Boehm Los Angeles Times

Here’s a paradox: Today’s art lovers would recoil at the thought of travel disasters, building collapses or volcanic eruptions afflicting their own communities. But over the next three months, visitors to the Getty Museum can enjoy a unique display of bronze statuary that was saved for posterity precisely because such calamities befell its ancient owners.

The show is “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World,” running Tuesday to Nov. 1 at the Getty Center in Brentwood — an atypical venue for an ancient-art show, which normally would be seen at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The two Getty curators who spent seven years organizing “Power and Pathos” say the 46 rare bronzes in the show needed to be seen in the best light and from all angles. The special exhibitions galleries in Brentwood afford space and natural lighting that the Villa lacks.

Essential Arts & Culture: A curated look at SoCal’s wonderfully vast and complex arts world

Having spent up to 2,300 years buried far below the ground or sunken in ocean beds of the Mediterranean Sea, this is art that deserves a deluxe presentation, given all it has been through.

What’s most special about the exhibition, curators Jens Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin say, is that it’s the first to bring together so many prized and exceedingly rare works of its period and kind.

lFull Coverage

Gallery and museum reviews: Full coverage

Gallery and museum reviews: Full coverage

For scholars it’s an unprecedented opportunity to eyeball one-fourth of the world’s known Hellenistic bronzes in one place, comparing and contrasting and perhaps leading to new understanding of how these works were created and what they meant to their ancient public.

For museum-goers, “Power and Pathos” is a chance to get a good sense of the complex currents that influenced creativity between the golden age of Greece, which historians call the “classical” period, and the dawn of the Roman Empire. The seeds of today’s conceptions about what art is for were planted in the Hellenistic world, as a burgeoning nonroyal upper class formed history’s first art market and began to commission works reflecting themselves rather than their rulers and their gods.

“All of what we have survived by chance, and we’re lucky to have it. How many more statues are under the sea bed or underground waiting to be pulled up, we don’t know.
— Kenneth Lapatin, curator


The Hellenistic period spans nearly 300 years, from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC to Augustus Caesar’s triumph over Cleopatra and Mark Antony in 31 BC. The Egyptian queen was the last descendant of Ptolemy, one of the generals who had divided Alexander’s empire, which sprawled from Greece to what’s now Pakistan.

With a few exceptions, the statues on display were lost for centuries. Some were excavated starting in the 1700s from sites such as Herculaneum in Italy, which perished along with Pompeii in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Many were pulled from coastal waters off Italy, Greece, Croatia, Tunisia and Turkey, where ancient cargo ships had been scuttled by pirates or wrecked by storms. One star attraction, a bronze sculpture of a seated boxer with bandaged hands and a battered, broken-nosed face and cauliflower ears, was placed in a deep pit at the bottom of an ancient wall in Rome for reasons that remain a mystery.

“All of what we have survived by chance, and we’re lucky to have it,” said Lapatin, whose vertical shock of hair makes him the Lyle Lovett of antiquarians. “How many more statues are under the sea bed or underground waiting to be pulled up, we don’t know. They were ubiquitous in antiquity, but they are rare today.”

Bronze was valuable and easily repurposed for myriad practical uses, so statues made of the metal became antiquity’s equivalent of the passenger pigeon — except for about 200 known exceptions. “You also had ideological reasons” for their wholesale destruction, Lapatin said. “Early Christians weren’t interested in preserving nude statues of pagan gods, and this was ready cash.”

That disaster kept a precious few bronzes from destruction “is the utter paradox” that underlies the show, said Daehner, an affable, soft-spoken German. “You could call it the paradox of archaeology in general, but for bronze it’s particularly true and poignant.”

Silver lining

The show is itself a silver lining of sorts. It had its genesis in the 2007 settlement of the Italian government’s grievances over looted ancient artworks the Getty had acquired, in which the museum returned 40 suspect pieces to Italy, including some of its most prized holdings. But with the return of comity and cooperation, Getty curators could now approach the great museums of Italy with ideas for art loans and collaboration on exhibitions. In 2008 the Getty entered a pact for art exchanges with the National Archaeological Museum in Florence.

Looking for intersections between the collections, curators noted that each sported magnificent Hellenistic bronzes — among them the “Getty Bronze,” a famous statue of a young athlete that was netted from the Aegean Sea by Italian fisherman, and the “Herm of Dionysos,” a Getty-owned example of one of the quirkiest forms of ancient art.

From there, they approached dozens of other museums, landing loans from 30 institutions in 12 countries — among them the Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, British Museum, the Prado and the Louvre.

“Many are national treasures or highlights of a museum,” Lapatin said. That so many pitched in — often with works never seen before in the United States — shows how strong the exhibition’s allure has been for scholars of ancient art. “It’s a testament to bringing them out of splendid isolation to [the Getty], where they’re talking to each other. No one has ever done this before.”

Today’s international politics kept a few desired sculptures out of reach. “There are pieces in Baghdad and Tehran that would have been very interesting to have in the show,” Daehner said. “In 2008 the world looked very different than it is now,” and getting them momentarily had seemed possible.

The display of the Getty’s two prime Hellenistic bronzes embodies the quest for consonance, comparison and contrast that Daehner and Lapatin were after. Viewers will get a simultaneous glimpse of the life-size “Getty Bronze,” which usually occupies a room of its own at the Villa, alongside similar works from the British Museum and the Museum of Underwater Antiquities in Athens. Together, Daehner said, they reflect the Hellenistic convention of idealizing the human body, yet making it more accessibly natural than would have been the case in the 400s BC and earlier.

Herms were boundary markers with a sculpted head at the top of a narrow pedestal and male genitalia poking out farther down. The genre gets its name from the god Hermes, whose head frequently topped the markers. The Getty’s herm shows a head of the god Dionysos, its hat and beard calling to mind portraits of the English King Henry VIII. To its right stands a near doppelganger fetched from coastal waters of Tunisia.

Were they made by the same sculptor or workshop? If so, why is the coloration so different, and why does the Tunisian herm have subtle, intricate touches — such as a fully detailed head of hair on the back of his scalp — that the Getty version is missing?

The word “pathos” in the show’s title reflects the objects’ lost-and-found history of past tragedy as well as Hellenistic sculptors’ key aesthetic breakthrough — using bronze, which is more pliable than marble, to register in acute detail the often careworn lives of mere mortals after centuries in which the main purpose of statuary was to capture the otherworldly majesty of gods and heroes.

A gallery devoted to depictions of ordinary humans rather than gods or rulers shows how Hellenistic sculptors began to embody common feelings. The face of a large “Portrait Statue of a Boy,” dug from the sands on the island of Crete, wears a look that projects sneering disgust mixed with an aching throb of sadness. The angsty defiance of adolescents apparently predates Holden Caulfield and Kurt Cobain by two millennia.

“Our modern idea of capturing character or personality is something that happens in the Hellenistic age that isn’t there before,” Daehner said. “Expression, emotion and a certain psychological realism get into a portrait.”

The Hellenistic period was the era when Greece had ceased being a great power in the Mediterranean world, yet it triumphed culturally by spreading its styles and ideas far beyond the reaches of the Athenian empire at its height in the 400s BC.

Alexander, the Macedonian king whose father had conquered Greece, carried his sword — and Greek notions about art and philosophy that he’d learned from his teacher, Aristotle — through most of the world known to ancient Europeans.

Lapatin said that one way to understand what was happening in bronze sculpture during the era is to follow the money.

“It’s an economic development,” he said. “In the classical period if you were wealthy you made a donation to the sanctuary” and commissioned a statue of a god. “In Hellenistic times, you could decorate your villa. The wealthy had more options, and a lot was about displaying statues and showing you were wealthy and cultured.” The vast sacked riches of Persia, Alexander’s key conquest, contributed mightily to enlarging this new class of private art consumers, Lapatin said.

The show that brings together so much begins with nothing at all: an empty, broken stone pedestal that, like many others across the landscape from the eastern Mediterranean to central Asia, sports an inscription but no statue.

“It’s signed by Lysippos, the favorite sculptor of Alexander the Great,” Lapatin said. Lysippos was credited in ancient times with having created more than 1,500 bronze statues, “none of which survives,” he said, except via copies made by others.

While Hellenistic artists and their public responded to new cultural currents, they did not turn their backs on tradition. A bust of a man, signed by the Greek sculptor Apollonios, is a blatant knockoff of a famous full-length statue of a spear-carrier by Polykleitos, who’d lived 400 years earlier.

“The original is famous, but it’s a good copy, so he signs it,” Lapatin said. “It’s got the cachet of an old master.” As a business move, that seems downright contemporary.

Although it is organized by the two Getty curators, “Power and Pathos” first was seen at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Its last stop, after the Getty, is the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Giacobbe Giusti, Roman statues of runners found at Herculaneum

Giacobbe Giusti, Roman statues of runners found at Herculaneum