The Getty Villa Museum— Part One

Sometimes a museum is as impressive as the contents of the museum, and such is the case with the Getty Villa Museum, the dream child of oil man J. Paul Getty, though he never lived to see it built (the art and artifacts were previously housed in the Getty home itself).   This museum is built on the plan of a very large Roman villa from the NT period or thereafter.  As such, it is worth seeing all by itself. It includes a triclinium, an impluvium, various fountains, a peristyle and all the rest of the regular features of a large Roman villa, very large.  This one has a reflection pool that rivals that from Nero’s villa in Rome. The point of the layout of a Roman villa is to impress the heck out of the observer, or to put it a different way, to show all comers just how prosperous and successful one is, and thus how one ought to be honored and praised for building such a home. The size and scope of the home reflects the pretensions and claims to honor of the family in question.  One is also struck of course by the openness of a villa structure. One can see through the villa, and one is meant to wander through gardens and around reflecting pools, marveling at the marble. Every good Roman villa has a hole in the roof so the rain can come in and be caught in a basin near the front of the house, and from there it is taken elsewhere and used for a variety of purposes (not usually for drinking).  A normal Roman day begins at dawn with the master of the house receiving clients in his triclinium or study, and that included giving his servants their instructions for the day. In our next post we will begin to examine some of the important antiquities in the museum.  One more note. There are two Getty museums— the Getty Villa devoted to antiquities, and the Getty Center elsewhere in L.A. which is devoted to the later art and objects collected by the Gettys. We only visited the former.

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