Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sharing the Wealth

A modern archway greets visitors at the entrance
An impressive artistic and idyllic tourist spot in Los Angeles is the Getty Villa, formerly known as the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu.

The pond featuring lotus flowers and lily pads
Jean Paul Getty was born into a wealth family that made its money in oil. Getty studied economics and political science and in the summers working in his father George's oil fields in Oklahoma.

He started running his own oil company and made his first million two years after he graduated from college.

However Getty's playboy ways (marrying and divorcing five times) didn't impress his father, who only left him $500,000 of the $10 million for his son's inheritance after Getty senior died in 1930.

Nevertheless, Getty Junior did very well for himself, snapping up oil companies during the Great Depression and amalgamating them under the Getty Oil.

The museum is a replica of a Roman country home
In 1945 he bought a 64-acre site in Malibu and nine years later opened the J. Paul Getty Museum to exhibit his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.

Then in 1968 he decided to recreate a first- century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Many of the architectural details are based on elements drawn from other ancient Roman homes in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.

The villa houses an extensive art collection of over 1,200 works that are organized by theme, such as Gods and Goddesses, Dionysos and the Theater, and Stories of the Trojan War.

Detail carving of a sarcophagus
In 2006 the renovated museum was reopened as Getty Villa, with many modern updates, from a stylish outdoor terrace where visitors can get gourmet Mediterranean-style meals, to a pretty lotus flower pool, and concrete that have the texture of wood.

While the villa is impressive, the murals are stiff and tedious; nevertheless, the use of marble is impressive and the gardens beautiful.

Currently on show is a piece called Lion Attacking A Horse from the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

It's a large marble piece of a ferocious lion biting int the backside of a startled horse. The lion's strong claws push the equine down to the ground, signalling its demise.

Lion Attacking A Horse from the Capitoline Museums, Rome
This image is an emblem of triumph and defeat from the era of Alexander the Great to the Renaissance Rome of Michelangelo.

Many of the pieces on display are in excellent condition, the graphic illustrations very clear, even if they are on shards.

It's interesting that Getty was so keen on collecting Greek and Roman items -- so much so to build a replica villa to house them all.

Ah the life of the uber wealthy. But we shouldn't complain -- he left $661 million to the museum after his death -- and he was keen to share it with us.

The Outer Peristyle showcases some bronze statues
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades
(310) 440 7300

The Lion Attacking A Horse is on show until February 4, 2013.

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