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Encounters with Artemis

Last night, former Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan, now public editor for the New York Times, posted an interesting picture on my Facebook wall. It showed Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, the newly appointed director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, posing with one of the gallery's most famous former residents in the Metropolitan Museum's grand Greek and Roman sculpture galleries: the statue previously known as "Artemis and the Stag." Here's the photo:

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The statue, from the late-Hellenistic or early Roman period, was the focal point of the gallery's 2007 controversial sale of more than 200 objects from its collection to finance the purchase of new art. It is this iconic work to which the gallery owes a great deal of its new purchasing power -- $25.5 million, plus returns. So it's fitting that Sirén, who became the gallery's 11th director in April after the departure of former director Louis Grachos, paid a visit to the piece. It has occupied a prominent place in the Met's galleries since shortly after its sale and is on long-term loan to the museum from its anonymous buyer.

In my research into Artemis, as the statue became known during the fierce public debates over the 2007 sale, I ran across another picture. This one showed former gallery director Gordon Washburn, left, admiring the statue along with then-director Edgar Schenck shortly after the gallery acquired it in 1953:

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I've retyped the accompanying news article, fascinating for anyone interested in more about the history of the statue, after the jump.

--Colin Dabkowski

Albright Gallery Gets Statue Dating from 2d Century, B.C.

'Diana and Stag,' Greek Bronze, Found in Rome Excavation

A Greek Hellenistic bronze statue of Diana and the Stag which dates back to at least the second century B.C. has been purchased by the Albright Art Gallery and is on display in the center of the Gallery's Sculpture Court.

Edgar C. Schenck, director of the gallery, announced the purchase today at the 48th annual meeting of the American Association of Museums. He described it as the only Greek bronze of its size in the country today known to be still standing on its original pedestal.

In describing the piece as a "pilgrimage" item, Mr. Schenck predicted that artists and archaeologists from all over the world who are doing research on ancient sculpture now will come to Buffalo to study the sculpture.

The sculpture, covered with green film, was discovered near San Giovanni in Rome during building excavations some time in the past 25 years.

It was brought to the United States by Piero Tozzi, New York City art dealer, through whom the gallery acquired the work.

Mr. Tozzi explained that the work was buried in pozzolana dirt, which the Romans used to make mortar, and that this protected it so well that it is in near perfect condition.

"Hellenistic bronzes were made in great quantities," Mr. Tozzi explained, "but in the Middle Ages they were melted down so that the bronze could be used for armaments. Most of those statues have disappeared and we have nothing left but the Roman reproduction. This statue is the original and we have never seen a reproduction of it. It is one of the rarest in the world."

The figure of Diana is about three feet high. She stands with outstretched arms which might originally have held a bow. A small deer is near her left foot. Mr. Tozzi noted that marks of lead soldering indicate that a leaping dog might have been part of the original group. He also noted that Diana might originally have worn a quiver of silver arrows.

Diana's eyes are inlaid with silver and there are silver "pearls" in her coronet. The stag is about 17 inches high and the base is about 12 inches high.

Mr. Schenck noted that the notched sandal, the calm-featured head, the selvage shown on the drapery material and the comparative squatness and heaviness of the Diana figure are characteristics tending to identify the piece as Greek art. He noted that the statue could have been made by a Greek living in Rome or it could have been brought from Asia Minor to Rome following the Roman conquest.

--The Buffalo News, June 18, 1953

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