Alumna’s Legacy Advances the Study of Classical Art

Metropolitan’s generosity prompts unique gift

By Denise St.Ours

It was known simply as “the shed,” a name that belied its size and the scope of what it contained—19th-century plaster casts of some of the best-known antiquities from the Mediterranean world. They were part of a 60-piece collection given to Mason by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“You just never know what you might find in storage in Fairfax County,” says Joe Brickey, whose wife, LeAnn Brickey, BIS ’03, died last summer. “LeAnn loved to take visitors to our shed to show them ‘the museum.’”

How did the shed become the temporary home to such a notable collection?

Carol Mattusch, Mathy Professor of History and Art History and a world-renowned expert on ancient bronzes, spearheaded the acquisition of the plaster casts, which had been stored for more than 70 years in a Bronx warehouse after the Metropolitan replaced its cast collection with original works of art. The collection includes casts of sculptures from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, a relief from Or San Michele in Florence, and a block from a Parthenon frieze from the British Museum.

Mattusch knew the casts were not in the best condition, but she saw the cleaning and researching of them as a learning opportunity for her students. The biggest challenge was finding a temporary space to store and work on the casts.

Enter LeAnn Brickey, who had begun working on a graduate degree at Mason. A student of Mattusch’s, she had a keen interest in classical art and archeology and was enthusiastic about becoming involved in the project.

“It was LeAnn who suggested to her husband that the shed be used to help us store, clean, and research our growing collection,” says Mattusch. “Her willingness to make the space available amounted to a unique gift to the university.”

Over the past four years, more than 20 student interns have cleaned and catalogued the casts—and their excitement and dedication reflect the spirit that LeAnn brought to the project. Among the pieces now gracing the Fairfax Campus are an eight-foot-tall plaster cast of a Greco-Roman statue known as the Barberini Faun located in the breezeway between Mason Hall and College Hall, and two casts of horsemen from a Parthenon frieze, in the Harris Theater lobby.

After LeAnn’s death, Joe encouraged the university to continue using the shed to honor his wife’s legacy. Mattusch and her students are now working on compiling a catalogue of the collection, which will be dedicated to LeAnn’s memory.

“LeAnn’s enthusiasm, expertise, and unflagging commitment to the study of the classical world have been an inspiration to all of us here at the university,” says Mattusch.

For more information about the project, contact Mattusch at

Collection Grows, Thanks to Students and Donor

Photo (Caption Below)

When Mason students Anna Zacherl (History) and Lucy Miller (Art History), above left, learned that several additional plaster casts from the Met’s collection were available for purchase, they headed to Sotheby’s auction house in New York City. They bid and bought the casts on behalf of an anonymous donor and had the pieces packed and delivered to Fairfax for cleaning and researching. Thanks to their efforts and private support, the 19th-century casts will grace Mason’s campuses for years to come.

Photo (Caption Below)

Joe and LeAnn Brickey