The 1906 San Francisco earthquake rumbled south through the peninsula towards Palo Alto. The Stanford Art Museum at Leland Stanford Jr. University was scarcely five years old when the shock from the quake began to rattle the skylight and window grids of the museum, and moments later the concrete building crumbled, destroying nearly three quarters of the Stanford Family art collection. By fortune, a marble statue of the Roman goddess Minerva survived the quake, and the restored Minerva stands today overlooking the main lobby of the rebuilt museum.
The Roman goddess Minerva, bathed in light from the restored skylight, now stands alone on the balcony of the grand staircase. The empty platforms on either side of Minerva once supported similar works in the Roman style that were destroyed when the museum collapsed in 1906.
As the 19th century ended, Jane Stanford was shopping for decoration for her new art museum— she turned to Italy and the works of the famous Florentine sculptor Antonio Frilli for marble replicas of famous Roman sculptures. One of which was the Minerva Giustiniani. This magnificent copy, with a bronze spear in her right hand, withstood the 1906 earthquake; she stands today in a place of honor at the top of the grand staircase.
The skylight was originally framed in concrete and the skylight was repaired for the 1999 reopening of the museum. The Cantor skylight was replaced by a modern steel copy in 2012 to solve a chronic water leak that flooded the lobby floor.
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