Returning the Head of Hades

The Getty will return a famed terracotta head to Sicily.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    The Getty
    The Getty will return a terracotta head of Hades to Sicily; the head will be on display at the Getty Villa from April 3 through August 19.

    While a museum job, from an outsider's view, might be very much about giving tours and looking at art and reading up on dates and history in books, it can be consumed with figuring out what goes where.

    Because art travels, right? It has throughout time, when people arrived in one land and journeyed home with this bust or that painting.

    And one well-known piece that's long resided here in Southern California has just received a one-way ticket home to Sicily. It's Hades, or rather a terracotta head representing the god, and it dates to 400-300 B.C. Current owner? The Getty Museum.

    The Getty announced on Thursday, Jan. 10 that it intended to return the head to Sicily -- voluntarily, we'll add. The institution, which has owned the piece since 1985, has determined that it was "clandestinely excavated" in the 1970s. Fragments discovered on the island 2011 suggest a relationship with the terracotta treasure, and those fragments and Hades will soon be unified in the land in which they sprung from hundreds upon hundreds of years ago.

    "The Getty greatly values its relationship with our Sicilian colleagues, which culminated in the 2010 Cultural Collaboration Agreement," said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

    Director of the Parco Archelogico di Morgantina Enrico Caruso also spoke on the repatriation of the head. "Close collaboration with the Getty's curators and conservators on the examination of the head has allowed us to give a name to the sanctuary shrine where several fragments of its curls of hair were found in 1978, as well as a name to the Getty's anonymous sculpture. It is Hades, god of the Underworld, the terracotta body of which is in the course of an extensive restoration in the Archaeological Museum in Aidone."

    But the head of Hades being reunited with the body of Hades won't be a quick process. The head is part of

    "Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome,"

    a traveling exhibition organized by The Getty. It will be at the

    Getty Villa

    from April 3 through August 19. The head can also be seen through Jan. 21 at the Villa, as part of a separate exhibit.

    The returning of an art object to its country of origin, by the by is called repatriating (though the term is broader than art objects, of course). Add that to the long list of concerns and topics on the art professional's busy mind.