Heavy metal

An exhibition of historical coins, bronze and marble sculptures and paintings has just opened at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale.

The unifying element of these American and European artists’ works is that this eclectic mix is part of the Forest Lawn permanent collection, said Joan Adan, exhibit designer and curator.

“It’s showcasing Forest Lawn’s fine art in its paintings, sculpture, and ancient and world coins,” she said.

James Eaton, father of Forest Lawn founder Hubert Eaton, collected the items, Adan said.

The collection includes a bronze follis coin from the Byzantine Empire in AD 600, decorated with the head of Christ, she said.

One of the rare Greek coins is a silver stater from 550 to 456 BC, which features the picture of a turtle on the front side of the coin, she said. And another is a silver tetradrachm coin from Athens that circulated from 510 to 38 BC. It has the image of Athena’s face on the obverse side, while an owl, olive branch and waning moon are on the reverse.

“It’s interesting how they used a combination of people and animals, similar to the coins of modern times,” Adan said.

Sculptors were often sought out to design coins, Adan said.

The exhibit also includes a bronze of Theodore Roosevelt by American sculptor James Earle Fraser, Adan said.

“He also designed the Indian head/buffalo nickel that has been called the first uniquely American coin,” she said.

Abraham Lincoln is a recurring subject in the collection. In the painting “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” by American artist Fletcher C. Ranson, the 16th president is portrayed as he dedicated the first national cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863, when he gave the Gettysburg Address. A copy of the address is placed underneath it.

Former Glendale resident Judy Calhoun, who visited the museum Monday, said the Lincoln painting was her favorite.

“It’s so historically significant,” she said.

“It’s emotional, especially having the Gettysburg Address below it. It’s historically so important.”

Across the room is American sculptor Bryant Baker’s bronze “Young Lincoln.”

It caught the eye of tourist Bridget Tofts, who lives just outside of London.

“I would definitely fancy him if I had lived at the same time he did,” Tofts said.

Other statues in the collection are Frederick William MacMonnies’ bronze of Nathan Hale, Gutzon Borglum’s bronze “The Fallen Warrior” and Thomas Ball’s bronzes of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.

A group of four bronze sculptures of animals — “Gazelle,” “Bears,” “Antelopes” and “Baboons,” tucked in one corner of the room, are by Italian sculptor Sirio Tofanari, Adan said.

“These items were in the Great Mausoleum and not accessible to the public, only to families who visited the crypts of their relatives,” Adan said.

Her favorite piece in this collection is the painting “Song of the Angels,” by French painter William Adolphe Bouguereau.

“I like the expression on their faces, the composition and use of paint — the way it looks as if light is being emitted from the painting,” Adan said. “It’s beautiful.”


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