The Ronald Tutor Campus Center is now home to an additional attraction: an extremely rare, 2,000-year-old ancient Greek sculpture, of which there is only one other known replica in existence currently residing in the Louvre in Paris.
The Dart Aphrodite is a product of the ancient Roman practice of making copies of ancient Greek pieces to preserve aging artwork. USC’s Dart Aphrodite will be displayed outside the Admission Center on the second floor of the Campus Center against the recycled glass wall.
The sculpture is a slightly larger than life-size head of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love. The head is all that remains of the original piece, as the rest of the body has been lost over time.
Part of the goddess’ nose has been scraped off, but overall the piece is in surprisingly good condition, said Cindy Robinson, educational program coordinator at the Campus Center.
“This piece will be beautiful, convenient and educational,” Robinson said. “We’re going to have an artifact on campus and professors, students and guests alike are going to seek it out and study it.”
In the mid-1990s, the piece’s owner, actress Jane O’Brien Dart, patron of the arts and donor of the Roski School of Fine Arts at USC, invited then-Dean of the School of Fine Arts John Pollini to visit her while the Dart Aphrodite was at her home in Los Angeles.
“I thought [the Dart Aphrodite] was an interesting piece so I did more research on it and eventually wrote an article on the head,” said Pollini, who is now a professor of classical art and archeology in the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.
Pollini published his article 15 years ago, and when Dart passed away in April 2009, her son Stephen got in touch with Pollini and decided to donate the artwork to USC.
“I had met Stephen earlier when I met Jane as I first saw the piece,” Pollini said. “He remembered me and my article and decided to donate the Dart Aphrodite to USC.”
The sculpture was donated to USC’s archeology lab, where it arrived in late November for examination. Robinson said that although the archeology lab officially owns the piece, it is on permanent loan to the Campus Center.
“We don’t have any kind of date set for when the piece might be removed,” Robinson said. “If it were to be removed, it would be in a very long time and it would have to be for extenuating circumstances.”
After being examined at USC, the piece was sent to a shop in Pasadena for a custom-made glass installation case. Because of the specific style and weight of the sculpture, the installation piece includes a special mount that goes into a hole at the bottom of the neck.
Pollini said that since the university does not currently have any other major pieces of ancient Greek or Roman art, the acquisition of the Dart Aphrodite is important to the USC community.
“This is literally something you would possibly study in an art history or archeology-minded class, so the fact that we’re going to have it on campus and see it in person is going to be infinitely more valuable than studying it in a book,” Robinson said. “It really makes being able to study it in this context priceless.”