sculpture

The Metamorphosis of Medusa

The Legion of Honor is currently host to a terrifyingly beautiful bust of The Medusa, on view through February 19. Created by master Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), this nightmare in marble arrives at the museum via the Dream of Rome, a project initiated by the mayor of Rome to exhibit timeless masterpieces in the United States. The Medusa is the inaugural loan in the prestigious partnership between the Fine Arts Museums and Rome’s Capitoline Museum.

Medusa projected onto the facade of the Legion of Honor

FRAME|WORK: Anti-Mass by Cornelia Parker

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature a unique sculpture that unites art and science. Cornelia Parker's striking Anti-Mass is currently on view at the de Young.

Cornelia Parker (English, b. 1956). Anti-Mass, 2005. Charcoal and wire. Museum purchase, Friends of New Art and the American Art Trust Fund in honor of Harry S. Parker III and Stephen A. Nash. 2006.2

The Truth about Alabaster

You may have heard the term alabaster used to describe the pristine skin of a beautiful woman or the smooth surface of statue, as in the case of The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, on view at the Legion of Honor through December 31.

Jean de La Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier. Mourner no. 55, mourner with head uncovered, wiping his tears on his cloak with his right hand, 1443–1456/57. Alabaster. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo © FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange) by Jared Bendis and François JAY.

Word Gallery: Workshop

Throughout art history, scholars have devised a special vocabulary to talk about art. These terms are very useful, but they are not always self-explanatory. So we thought we'd take you into the art historical word gallery to provide some definitions commonly used to describe artistic styles, techniques, or movements in art.

Conserving Louise Nevelson’s "Ocean Gate"

As a follow up to our last post about the conservator’s role in dealing with artistic intent, the Objects Conservation Department has been working with outdoor sculpture contractors from Tracy Power Conservation to conserve the Louise Nevelson sculpture Ocean Gate. The sculpture is located at the south corner of the Osher Sculpture Garden at the de Young.


Louise Nevelson (American, 1900–1988)
Ocean Gate, 1982
Aluminum and black paint
145 11/16 x 81 7/8 x 68 1/8 in.
Museum purchase, gift of Barbro and Bernard A. Osher, 2002.72a-f

FRAME|WORK: A seven-headed bush spirit from Nigeria

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature a life-size sculpture depicting a Nigerian bush spirit, currently on view in the African gallery at the de Young.


Shrine figure or bush spirit with seven heads, 20th century
Nigeria, Cross River, Ijo people
Wood, glass eyes, paint
172.7 x 35.6 x 45.7 cm (68.5 x 14.5 x 18 in.)
Museum purchase, gift of Phyllis C. Wattis and the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions
2004.93

The Conservator’s Role in Honoring Artistic Intent

When objects conservators design a treatment for a corroded sculpture, they often have to grapple with the issue of the artist’s intent.

For instance, would Henry Moore at age 29, who made a sculpture with a shiny metallic surface, be in agreement with Henry Moore at 75, who, when interviewed about a treatment, stated that he quite liked the idea that surfaces went green, dry and streaky with time?

One way a conservator can help tease out these contradictions is to interview contemporary artists about the materials and techniques they use and then record how these artists would like their sculptures cared for in the future. At the Fine Arts Museums we are developing a database tracking this information for contemporary sculpture under our care.

The artist Al Farrow with

Artist Al Farrow with his sculpture The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro previously on view at the de Young

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