Notre Dame at the Getty: 38 works evoking beauty and loss from a ‘symphony of stone’
For more than eight centuries, Notre Dame has towered above Paris as a Gothic monument to history, culture and worship. The old cathedral hosted the coronation of Napoleon, survived revolution and world war, and repeatedly embarked on renovation as an international treasure. Then came the fire of April 15.
Days after part of the roof burned and its famous spire collapsed, the Getty Museum resolved to create an exhibition celebrating the landmark’s place in art. “An Enduring Icon: Notre-Dame Cathedral,” now at the Getty though Oct. 20, was fast-tracked by Anne-Lise Desmas, the Getty’s French-born senior curator for sculpture and decorative arts.
Drawing mostly from the Getty’s collections, Desmas gathered 38 pieces, including paintings, photographs, engravings, lithographs and rare books. “We’ve mixed emotions working on a such an exhibition,” said Desmas, who witnessed Notre Dame’s fragile state on a recent trip to Paris. Its medieval stained-glass “rose” windows has been removed during reconstruction. “It’s beautiful and sad at the same time.”
The goal of the exhibition is to present Notre Dame as a monument of architecture and an inspiration to artists throughout its long history. Century-old pictures show the cathedral’s stone gargoyles that watch over the city, and stereocards capture its huge towers. The show also includes Charles Le Brun’s 1647 painting “The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew,” which mirrors another canvas by the artist that hangs in the chapel of Saint-Landry at Notre Dame.
An 1884 photograph by Nadar focuses on Victor Hugo, author of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and a champion of preserving the landmark’s “vast symphony of stone” after it had fallen into disrepair. Much of the lasting romance that surrounds the building first emerged during its 19th century renovation.
“The cathedral is a museum of beautiful artworks. I tried to balance between hidden gems, historic events and artworks dear to many people in the world,” Desmas said. “It was really a beautiful challenge.”
'An Enduring Icon: Notre-Dame Cathedral'
Where: Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, L.A.
When: Though Oct. 20
Info: (310) 440-7300, getty.edu
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