Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Getty Villa

Getty Villa - Outer Peristyle Garden
The design of the Getty Villa is based on the Villa dei Papyri, a private house in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum (today Ercolano near Naples) that was buried in AD 79 from the eruption of Vesuvius. (Here’s an example of the type of flow that covered the village.)

Villa dei Papyri was first discovered in the 1700s and got its name because of a library found inside the villa containing thousands of papyrus scrolls. Untangling and deciphering the badly burned and stuck together scrolls is ongoing as the Philodemus Project named after Philodemus (c. 100 – c. 40-35 BC) an Epicurean philosopher and poet whose work comprises the bulk of the library. Epicureanism in one compact sentence, that I’ll borrow, “taught that man is mortal, that the cosmos is the result of accident, that there is no providential god, and that the criterion of a good life is pleasure.”[*]

So what’s the Getty Villa like? We thought it was great. Sure it’s shiny and bright compared to what we saw in Pompeii – also subject to the same eruption, but less buried than Herculaneum. But who cares? It’s fun to experience an approximation of Roman villa in a form something close to what it must have been like. The collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities housed in the museum part of the villa is equally engaging. The collection is arranged around themes and one of the must-see artifacts is the statue of a Victorious Youth, but don’t let that be your only stop. I was awed by the Gold Wreath in the same room as the Victorious Youth.

The Getty Villa was first opened in 1974 adjacent to the ranch house owned by John Paul Getty (1892-1976) in Pacific Palisades (not Malibu!). The museum underwent extensive remodeling in 1997 and reopened in 2006. The newly added architecture surrounding the villa is designed to suggest an archaeological dig with many layers. Entrance to the Villa is free, but you must make a reservation ahead of time. Parking is $15.

The photo attached to this post is taken from the Outer Peristyle, the largest garden at the Getty Villa. We were visiting back in April 2010. The picture was taken with the intent of saying something about the extensive use of Hedera helix (English Ivy) which surprised us but apparently was common in Roman gardens. I guess we’ve been reading the King County noxious weed info too much.
Getty Villa - Gold Wreath
Getty Villa - Old Meets New

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