December 27, 2012

A Roman Christmas

Come with me down a long corridor on a California winter's day.

And emerge into the sunshine of a Roman villa.

Walk with me down this long stoa.

There are curvy paths and gardens to get lost in.

Roses bloom in California in December.

And persimmons hang from branches.

The pool leads away toward the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

And celebrities are sighted.

It was a day spent at the Getty Villa in Malibu over Christmas.

The art, the Greek and Roman antiquities, the museum collections were all fascinating, but it is the perfect replica of a Roman villa's gardens and grounds that were most enjoyable.

John Paul Getty built it in the 1950s to house his immense art collections. He insisted on making an exact reproduction of the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. He built it not to simply view what an ancient Roman villa looked like, but to wander in, to walk through, and to experience how wealthy ancient Romans actually lived.  Getty never saw it, he died before it was opened.

A second museum, the Getty complex, was later built on a hilltop in L.A. to house even more of his vast collections. Both the complex in L.A. and the original villa in Malibu are well worth visiting.


I had just read Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum. It's a fascinating expose of the very dirty business of museum collecting, focused on the scandal that rocked the Getty several years ago, and sent its curator to jail.

I love it when I get to see a place I have read about and that has consumed my imagination.


It's snowing here today in Connecticut, but our Christmas visit to ancient Rome in California is still a lovely memory.

28 comments:

  1. Just what you need today. Me too. Yesterday we got the storm that is coming your way today. I am sitting here watching 12" of snow trying to melt. It sure is pretty. After all it is winter but the roads are treacherous. I am happy that I don't have to get out. I would love to be going out West to look at gardens. It makes me warmer just seeing your sunshine filled photos.

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    1. Lisa, I was so glad that we got our western trip to L.A. and Denver in before all the storms started wreaking havoc with the airlines. We got out and back with no problems. Like you, I am enjoying how pretty it is --- I don't have to go anywhere in it!

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  2. Laurrie, I'm glad you had have such interesting trip on Christmas! I love the long gallery, great architecture and colors.
    Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Nadezda, the architecture at the Getty villa is impressive. It shows what you can build with massive amounts of money!!

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  3. Thanks for a glimpse of such a fascinating place. It's a bit sad that he didn't live to see the place finished. Hope you're staying warm and enjoying your winter wonderland. Happy New Year, Laurrie.

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    1. Cat, happy holidays to you. Both of the Getty museums are really interesting. And free-- there is no admission cost! At the villa you have to get a ticket to reserve a time because it is small, but there is no cost. Worth a trip to L.A.!

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  4. Laurrie, that tour is transporting, much needed to offset the images of weather woes in so much of the country.

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    1. Lee, there is much wrong with California, but you can't beat a glorious day in December rolling up the Pacific Coast Highway in warm sunshine!

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  5. Chasing Aphrodite sounds like my kind of book! I grew up in CA, although most of it was spent in colder northern CA. Glad you had a winters break! :o)

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    1. Tammy, I'd encourage you to read Chasing Aphrodite --- it is nonfiction, written by two journalists about the museum industry, but reads like a crime novel. What an eye opener!

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  6. Never fails to amaze just how beautiful it is in the southern states at this time of year. My mind has a hard time comprehending when the snow is swirling outside my window. I like the sound of that book, the art world has some amazing history in regards to acquiring their trophies.

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    1. Marguerite, I could not live in a climate that did not have distinct seasons, but when snow flies, it does seem appealing to be in California! Check out the book --- I found it fascinating.

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  7. What a wonderful contrast to what we normally look out at in CT in December. Looks like you had a great time. Welcome home.

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    1. Joene, thanks! I did not think I could get in the Christmas spirit out west, but I did, even with the palm trees all around.

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  8. I wonder how accurate the reproduction is considered to be. Who are the celebrities? I'm not a good spotter. Lovely place and day.

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    1. James, according to the video about the history of the museum that we watched, Getty was a stickler for reproducing the villa exactly as it had been excavated. He apparently drove his architects batty with his demands to replicate it, and his unlimited funds to do so. The man was rich in a way we can't comprehend today. And the celebrities? Me, my son and his girlfriend -- all famous, in our family at least!

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  9. That place looks VERY expensive. I remember hearing about the Getty museum scandal in the news. I think I'll have to read that book.

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    1. Sweetbay, expensive, yes. But the great thing is that both of the Getty museum complexes are free to the public, no admission charge, although you have to get a ticket at the villa to reserve an entry time since it is small. Read the book, you'll be caught up in the scandal once again!

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  10. I would love to see that museum! The pictures did not even look as though you were in California. What a magical place! Sounds like a fun trip! Happy New Year!

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    1. Nicole, it did feel like we were in Rome, not California. Well, just a little : )

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  11. Interesting gardens, architectural significance, breathtaking views and international intrigue-how could you not visit? I'm impressed by the impeccable maintenance as well. Next time I place an Amazon order I'll be sure to pick up the book. Thanks for calling all of this to my attention.

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    1. Sue, I hope you enjoy the book! I did not think about the maintenance, but now that I look over my photos, it is clear that they keep the grounds beautifully clean and pristine. It's quite a place.

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  12. I worked in museums for years and yes, it can be a pretty ugly business. Fortunately most of the people in it are honest! I haven't been to the "old" Getty in years, but the new one is pretty amazing as well. And not just the art - the gardens are spectacular. Lots of crazy cacti and the most gorgeous dahlias you've ever seen.

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    1. Sarah, the gardens at the new Getty complex are unusual and fascinating. I saw them in 2008, but when we went back last winter they were closed, under renovation. Now that I have seen the old villa, it is time to return to the new complex and check out what they did with the garden repairs!

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  13. Fantastic! Next time I'm in southern California, this is on my must see list!

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    1. Jason, it will be worth seeing. As I have commented to others here, admission to both Getty museums is completely free, but you do need to get a reservation at the villa for an entry time as they limit visitors.

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  14. You had me at "Come with me down a long corridor on a California winter's day!" Gorgeous pictures of a magnificent place. I enjoyed the history you shared too.

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    1. Rosemary, thanks, and I'm glad you enjoyed this little tour!

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