Rome's Capitoline Museums are letting the fourth-century-B.C. sculpture "Lion Attacking a Horse" out on loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California to mark the inauguration of a new cultural accord between the two institutions. This is a remarkable event as the sculpture is leaving Europe for the first time in two millennia.
The 3.3-tonne sculpture was of one of the first pieces of ancient art acquired by the Museums. Much admired by Michelangelo during his time in Rome, it acquired its current form in 1594, when one of his students, Ruggero Bascapè, restored missing parts of the horse head and legs and the lion's rear.
At the Getty, where the statue will be on display through February 2013, "Lion Attacking a Horse" will be surrounded by works it has inspired, including a Roman floor mosaic and a Renaissance bronze copy. During the age of European Grand Tours in the 17th century, miniature bronze copies of the statue were a popular souvenir for visitors to the Capitoline Museums.
The Getty Villa, which houses the Getty Museum's antiquities collection, had one of the most developed collections of Ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities in America until a protracted legal battle with Italy resulted in the return of 40 pivotal pieces in 2007.
Getty's bilateral agreement with the Capitoline Museums accords the American museum rights to long-term loans and exhibitions and the responsibilty to contribute to the Capitoline Museums' conservation and restoration efforts. The museum has signed similar agreements with the Sicilian Ministry of Culture and the National Archeological Museums in Florence and Naples.