Herculaneum on the Pacific
A rich man’s dream: The Getty Villa on the California Coast
After a grueling road trip in morning rush hour (see yesterday’s post) I managed to revisit the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades after its massive restoration. Initially built by the oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, its design was inspired by the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. The Getty Villa opened in 1974 to the public as a museum, housing the entire original Getty Collection but was never seen by Getty, who died in 1976. The Villa now houses just the Antiquities Collection.
Busts of Alexander the Great and his close friend Hephaestion
My obsession with all things Roman (and Greek) was greatly satisfied, the Villa houses an astounding collection of objects and also a beautiful collection of Antique jewelry. It was hard not to contemplate a heist…
The Villa dei Papiri that served as the inspiration for the Getty Villa was buried by the ashes of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in A.D. 79 as well as nearby Herculaneum. Shortly after its rediscovery in the 1730s, the richest finds were from a villa that came to be called the Villa dei Papiri, because it also yielded upward of a thousand papyrus rolls–the only library ever to have been recovered from the classical world. To the great excitement of contemporaries, the papyri held out the tantalizing possibility of the rediscovery of lost masterpieces by classical writers.
Fresco from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum
You might find the whole thing a tad too “Nouveau”, but I think it is a triumph, the Romans themselves were “Nouveau” compared to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians, but they brought living standards up to a level, not seen again until the Renaissance.