The Getty Villa, on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, houses one of the most extensive collections of classical antiquities in the world. The galleries are packed with twelve hundred items from more than two thousand years ago -- some of them almost five thousand years old -- and the astounding thing about most of them is they look as fresh and perfect as if they had been turned out last week.
The Getty Villa has recently undergone an extensive renovation and is now again open to the public. It's a glorious site, breathing luxury and all the delights humans have been able to conceive down the ages. The gardens, reflecting pools, splashing fountains, tiled mosaics and graceful peristyles tell us how the classical ages imagined paradise. And we have to admit it remains as full a version as we have.
The Greeks and Romans used great urns and jugs for storage and decorated many of them with elaborate figures illustrative of legends of gods and heroes. They are magnificent objects and to view them in their various shapes -- amphora, pelike, hydria, lekythos, and so on -- is to gain a sense of what life was like in a great Roman villa.
Getty wanted his California mansion to be modeled on the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Though that building has not yet been completely excavated, modern architects had extensive enough drawings and floor plans of it for Getty to approach his ideal.