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Getty buys medieval sculpture of St. John the Baptist at Sotheby's

December 6, 2011 | 12:36 pm

The Getty Museum outgunned other bidders at Sotheby's London today to buy a nearly life-size limewood sculpture of St. John the Baptist that was carved in the early 16th century, paying almost a half-million dollars for it. Experts believe it could have once been part of the Schloss Harburg altar in southern Germany or else was carved by the same sculptor that did that altarpiece, considering the style of the billowing drapery in particular.

The sculpture shows a thickly bearded St. John the Baptist cradling the Holy Lamb, with a camel's head resting between his feet. Some areas retain the original paint.

The Getty bought the artwork for 313,250 pounds (about $487,000), including buyer's premium, surpassing the high estimate of 150,000 pounds. Sotheby's identified the sculpture as "property restituted to the heirs of Jacob and Rosa Oppenheimer" that had left the family's hands during the Nazi era because of a forced sale.

This purchase comes on the heels of the museum's acquisition from a private collector of Manet's "Portrait of Madame Brunet," set to go on display in one week. The Getty says its new sculpture of St. John the Baptist will go on display "in early 2012."


The Getty Museum's new Manet

The Getty acquires Manet's moody 'Portrait of Madame Brunet'

--Jori Finkel

Above: St. John the Baptist, about 1515. The Master of the Harburger Altar (active around 1515). Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum