Capers #9: The Getty Center

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Blog entry by Mark Wilson posted 07-31-2017 07:34 AM 1109 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Things I Never Noticed Part 9 of Capers series Part 10: Public Art »

So, RBS has been lurking around here for a couple weeks. I’ve been so busy trying to earn a living that we haven’t had any “quality time” with to speak of. Then, this morning, I wake up thinking, I will take today off and take RBS on a caper, this being her last day before leaving. I gets out of bed, track the woman down and say, “You. Me. Caper. Today.” She says, “Okay. I’m ready to go. Where are we going?” I said, “The Getty Center. I’ve been wanting to go there for years, and haven’t, mainly because it’s a thing that needs to be shared, at least the first time.” She says, “That sounds like fun. Let’s go.” Whereupon she adds that BS had said something to her yesterday about her maybe coming over today. This means we can’t leave yet. I call BS and ask, “How soon can you be here?” She says, “About an hour, or a little more.” So, we waited for her to show up.
Upon BS’s arrival, and after feeding BS a PBJ, we depart. It’s about 1:30, the museum closes at 5:30, and we have an hour-plus drive ahead of us. We finally got into a parking spot at, like, 10 to 3, and made the ride up the hill on the tram, after waiting in the line for twenty minutes or so. Now, it’s 3:15ish and this place is huge.
That’s okay, because the thing I really was interested in seeing there, today, was the temporary exhibition Eyewitness Views – paintings that were staged and executed, by various artists in the eighteenth century, depicting, in great detail, significant events. Anything else, really, could wait for another visit. So we went straight to that building and spent an hour and a half or so. Amazing stuff, I gotta say. These eighteenth century painters are all that and a bag of chips.
By about 4:40, we’d had our fill of that, and were glad we made it on this, the last day of the exhibition.
We proceeded to another building, which building is billed as having as its contents, “Decorative Arts; Changing Exhibitions,” with a small thumbnail of what appeared to be a 18th century Demilune. Well, I gotta see some of that. We’re talking Marquetry of the first order, here. And what Marquetry. There was one piece that I could find by the great Andre Boulle. Astounding. A two-hundred-seventy/eighty-year-old box that, I swear, looked like something the great Paul (Shipwright) Miller might have made. And, oh, the rest of the stuff in those many galleries, absolutely made my head spin. I’m racing through this place, in the very little time I have left, trying to absorb as much as I can without my head exploding. Oh, the eye candy. Oh, the overload. I had left my camera at home. I had my iPhone6S on my person, but, sadly, there are restrictions on photographing most of the artifacts in the Getty. Partly, why I had left my camera at home. I suspected it would be thus.
At about ten to five, I walk into yet another gallery and see before me something I’ve never seen before. Is this Marquetry? I strain my eyeballs real close and see that this “Marquetry” is not “Marquetry” at all. It’s Marquetry-like stonework. My eyes are bugging out. I ask the docent, who’s standing a few feet behind me, “This is made of stone?” He says, “Yes. Amazing, innit? You should see the new piece we just acquired, in Gallery East 101.” “Where is that, in as few steps as possible, please.” He tells me. I go.
With seven minutes left, before closing time, I walk through a door where another docent is turning someone else away, on the grounds that they’re about to lock up. I walked in behind the docent, I did, and went straight to this thing that’s unlike anything I’ve ever imagined. (iPhone photos – not the best.)

The plaque reads:

The Borghese-Windsor Cabinet
Italian (Rome) about 1620
Fir, Walnut, and Chestnut veneered with various tropical hardwoods, set with Lapis Lazuli, Jasper, Agate, Amethyst, and other hard stones (pietra dure), gilt bronze, silver, and silver-gilt.
French, before 1821
Beech, Mahogany, and Oak ebonized and veneered with ebony, ebony columns, lacquered brass and mirrored glass.
This cabinet was made for Pope Paul V Borghese (ruled 1605-21), whose coat of arms is featured above the central niche. Designed to resemble the facade of a Baroque church, it is exceptional in its large size and sumptuous decoration. Expensive and difficult to cut and polish, the numerous hard stones (pietra dure, in Italian) covering the front in elaborate geometric and chromatic patterns demonstrate the rarity of this piece. The statuettes, with draperies in gilt bronze and with heads, hands and legs in silver, add to its luxuriousness.
Such showpiece cabinets – brilliantly colored in there use of precious materials, but also intriguing with their multiple drawers, were the most prominent display furniture in seventeenth-century Europe. They also stored such treasures as medals, gems, and small bronzes or ivories, as well as private documents.
Already in an English private collection by 1821, when it was offered for sale with its stand in London, the cabinet was then acquired by King George IV (ruled 1820-30). It remained in the British Royal Collection until 1959, when it as sold with the collection of Queen Mary.
This detail of the top figure is as clear as I could make it, having had to crop it from the first photo because it’s about twelve feet up.
These were the only photos I dared take, aside from a few shots around the grounds. I and RBS and BS were the only ones in the building, besides the docent I snuck in behind. She said it was okay.
I will be going back there. Likely, many times, in the future. I’ll take my camera. Evidently, they’re only moderately strident about the photography policy. I know that, now.

-- Mark

9 comments so far

View CFrye's profile


10823 posts in 2446 days

#1 posted 07-31-2017 12:32 PM

Mark! Gorgeous piece! I particularly like the ‘vase’ in the 4th image ‘cause it looks like wood.
;-) Thank you for sharing the Caper you shared with your sisters. Always a treat to hear of your adventures, my friend.

-- God bless, Candy

View bushmaster's profile


3770 posts in 2888 days

#2 posted 07-31-2017 01:22 PM

very interesting. that piece is mind blowing.. Will have to check out your other capers.. Had missed this part of your experiences.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23759 posts in 3711 days

#3 posted 07-31-2017 02:33 PM

Wow, It looks brand new!!!!!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View BrentH's profile


75 posts in 1645 days

#4 posted 07-31-2017 02:35 PM

Wow, Mark! Thanks for sharing this. It’s been decades since we’ve been there and I dont remember much of it. It’s now on my bucket list. Its made all the better “seeing” it through your eyes as I can feel the excitement in your words.

-- Brent H. --"This retirement stuff is hard work. I need to go get a job so I can get some rest!"

View lew's profile


12933 posts in 4361 days

#5 posted 07-31-2017 02:43 PM

I’ve heard that place is awesome. Your photos prove it. Thanks for the adventure, Mark!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View leafherder's profile


1889 posts in 2558 days

#6 posted 07-31-2017 06:24 PM

You lucky dog! Can’t believe you hadn’t been there before. To a guy like me (degree in museum studies) the Getty is the ultimate destination, if I lived anywhere west of the Rockies it would be at least a semi-annual pilgrimage. And you got to see two of my favorite styles – (18th Century Neo Classical Paintings – and pietra dura AKA intarsia, or as you so aptly described the process “marquetry in stone”). Thanks for sharing,

-- Leafherder

View DocSavage45's profile


8881 posts in 3448 days

#7 posted 07-31-2017 06:52 PM

Great Story.

Living in a remote area and having lived in Chicago and close to New York I do miss the opportunities. Sounds like it was worth the drive.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View robscastle's profile


6675 posts in 2810 days

#8 posted 07-31-2017 09:42 PM

An envious Caper #9 Mark.

Its certainly an impressive piece of art/furniture.
From infomation I could find it sold for 2499.000 euro to the Museum.

Made in Rome for Pope Paul V by an unknown craftsperson,which in itself is a bit dissapointing as they do not appear to get any recognition of their skills anywhere.

A fact worth following up if only to get the History recorded correctly.

The poms seem to annexed it with the name Windsor mainly because they had it stashed at Windsor Castle.
I guess if you have the power you can do that sort of activity.

If Paul Miller did make it, he did so when he was very young, maybe he knows who did?

I made something similar for the wife but I think she threw it out, she didnt like the piece of army string I used

I am off now to check back on Capers 1 to 8

-- Regards Rob

View Grumpy's profile


25952 posts in 4457 days

#9 posted 07-31-2017 10:28 PM

Very impressive mark.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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