Running out of room for his extensive collection of Roman, Etruscan and Grecian artefacts in his personal gallery, oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty built the Getty Villa for his beloved pieces near to his home in Malibu, Los Angeles. The villa itself was architecturally inspired by the design of the Villa dei Papiri, a grand country residence on the Bay of Naples buried in 30 metres of lava by the Vesuvius eruption in AD 79. It had been built by the father-in-law of Julius Caesar — a figure whom Getty admired greatly.
Salvaged artefacts that were excavated from within the Villa dei Papiri are displayed in an exhibition, “Buried by Vesuvius”. These include some 65 bronze and 27 marble statues, the largest collection ever released from a single archaeological site.
The Getty Villa was also inspired by ancient houses in nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Getty’s love of Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli outside Rome. Getty built this homage to house his extensive collections, though he never visited it or lived here. The museum opened in 1974, and Getty died in 1976, leaving $661 million dollars to the museum. He never got the chance to visit the excavation site of Villa dei Papiri. Excavations had begun in the 18th century and continue today. Upon request, the Getty Villa has returned some of the artefacts it housed to Italy and Greece, though the museum hosts a variety of epic exhibitions so there is still plenty to see!
Today, the Getty Villa continues to survive its founder. Offering a slice of antiquity to both its neighborhood of Malibu and tourists alike, the museum offers a variety of events such as Roman theatre productions, children and family classes, and collaborations and projects with local educational institutions.
Getty once said: “I feel no qualms of a reticence about likening Getty Oil Company to an “Empire” and myself as Caesar”
Website: Visit the Getty Villa
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