Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Malibu is one of two museums open to the public from the J. Paul Getty foundation.  Getty first opened up his Malibu home as a museum to show his large collection of antiquities in 1954.  After the collection became too large for his home he built the villa in 1968 on the estate to house all of it. The Villa was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, a Roman country house buried by the eruption of Mouth Vesuvius.  Many of the Getty Villa's architectural details are based on elements drawn from other ancient Roman homes in the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. The Villa opened in 1974 and the collection of art inside is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria including antiquities arranged by themes including Gods and Goddesses, Dionysos and the Theater, and Stories of the Trojan War and Roman-inspired architecture and gardens.

We arrived a couple of hours before they closed so we only had a limited time to explore.  We started with the Garden tour which explores the 4 garders in the villa and puts them in context of the time period of the AD 79 (when the original Villas was destroyed).  The Inner Peristyle garden is an intimate resting spot at the center of the Museum.  Around a narrow reflecting pool sit replicas of finds from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, including square marble basins and bronze statues depicting women who have come to draw water from a stream. Outside the Museum entrance is the Herb Garden, which includes fruit trees and fragrant and colorful annuals and perennials used by the ancient Romans in cooking, ceremony, and medicine.

The Museum's south doors open onto the Outer Peristyle, the largest garden at the Getty Villa. It has hedge-lined pathways and circular stone benches. Plants favored by the ancient Romans, such as bay laurel, boxwood, myrtle, ivy, and oleander, are planted around a spectacular 220-foot-long reflecting pool. Bronze sculptures, replicas of statues found at the Villa dei Papiri, are placed in their ancient findspots. A peristyle, or covered walkway, surrounds the formal garden and leads visitors past illusionistic wall paintings to spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  Beyond the East stair in the Museum lies the East Garden, one of the most tranquil spaces at the Villa. This walled sanctuary is shaded by sycamore and laurel tree.

After the garden tour we watched a short video on the history of the museum then looked at some of the exhibits on the upper level of the villa.  Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn't get to see as much as we wanted which means we will just have to take another trip.

Definitely leave a lot of time for this museum. It is open Wed- Mon 10am - 5pm.  There's a lot to see including tours and movies.  The best thing about this museum is it's totally free you just have to reserve the tickets in advance.  Parking is $15 for the car load. After visiting this museum I'm super excited to go to the Getty Center.

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