Another extravagant place from California... A sister museum to the Getty Center that I posted about last week, the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades near Los Angeles was born out of J. Paul Getty's passionate interest for antique Etruscan, Greek and Roman art. J. Paul Getty started exhibiting his huge art collections enabled by his family's oil money in a gallery adjacent to his home in 1954, but as the collections grew, a more suitable venue was needed.
The Inner Peristyle garden, with a narrow reflecting pool surrounded by statues of women who have come to draw water from a stream. The East Garden with the mosaic fountain (as seen below) forms the final focal point of the central axis.
The East Garden with a colorful mosaic fountain, copied from the House of the Large Fountain in Pompeii.
A man with lavish means and a vivid imagination, J. Paul Getty decided to model his new museum after the Villa dei Papiri, a Roman country house in Herculaneum buried under ashes and pumice by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Villa dei Papiri has only been partly excavated, so many details of the museum are copied from other ancient Roman homes in the Pompeii and Herculaneum area. The original Getty Villa opened to the public in 1974, and a modern addition to the museum was built during a long renovation from 1997 to 2006.
The Outer Peristyle Garden with a large, central pool and several sculptures, planted with Buxus hedges and Mediterranean shrubs as oleanders, Nerium oleander, and pomegranates, Punica granatum.
The Villa has four garden areas, all of which were typical for the larger, Roman country villas: the narrow, shady East Garden to be enjoyed during hot afternoon hours, the Inner Peristyle Garden offering a cool oasis in the middle of the house (peristyle means an open colonnade surrounding a court sometimes containing a garden), the Herb Garden planted with Mediterranean species for cooking and medicine, and the Outer Peristyle Garden with a large, central pool. All gardens contain fountains and sculptures, and are planted in a formal, historically correct style with plants that were used by the Romans: acanthus, laurels, lavender, pomegranates, palms, cherries, peaches and many others - the volcanic eruption that destroyed everything living, at the same time preserved pollen and casted impressions of the plants in the lava, making it possible for later generations to know exactly what was grown by the unfortunate gardeners of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The Herb Garden, planted with Mediterranean plants for cooking and medicine; thyme, mint, sage, lavender, citrus, pomegranates, olives and many more. Note the magnificent pine against the house. The dripping sound of water offers a cool relief in this sunny, dry area.
Wandering around the impeccable villa and the well-manicured gardens was a curious experience. On one hand, the artifacts there are all first class treasures from ancient Greece and Rome. And the villa and gardens put them into a context by showing how things very well might have looked during the most glorious days of the Roman empire. Also, not everybody from this part of the world will be able to visit European museums or other extensive collections of antiquities, or the real, excavated cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, so the Getty Villa has a great educational value too. On the other hand, I couldn't quite shake off a feeling of wandering in some kind of ultra posh Disneyland: sophisticated, but a bit too sleek and perfect. Despite these quiet ponderings, the gardens were truly enjoyable, and the art collections and the setting of the Villa magnificent, so on the whole, the Getty Villa was a fascinating place to visit.