It was here, amongst the hills, pines, palms, white beaches, and homes of the Hollywood stars that Mr J. Paul Getty decided to build a villa. Getty had done well for himself in the oil business (about $2 billion well) so was not short of a penny, and decided that he would 'imaginatively recreate' a sprawling Roman villa. Why not?
He'd been collecting art and antiquities for most of his life, and was actually quite generous in running his home (one of his homes...) as a museum that the public could drop into and look around. This villa was specifically designed to house his burgeoning collection, and although completed two years before his death in the 70s he never got to see it completed as he was living in England at the time. Malibu or England? Hmmm.
The museum is free, but it's $15 park (remember, this guy was a businessman) and Hannah and I got there the minute it opened. This meant we could wander around well before the school parties and grockles arrived. Just us in our Roman/Malibu villa, with only the butterflies and security guards for company. I was almost tempted to strip off and jump into one of the ornamental pools, but SoCal is not NorCal.
The place is beautiful, and has been complemented by a complete renovation in 2006. We did the architecture tour, which explained how everything new surrounding the villa is meant to suggest an archaeological dig. This is because the place is actually a replica of a real villa being excavated from Vesuvian ash in Herculaneum, and it's an 'imaginative' recreation as they haven't finished digging up the original yet. Why didn't Getty fund that, Hannah wondered, instead of building this? She's so corporately responsible!
Turns out that Getty wasn't much into archaeology. Context is everything, as Indiana Jones will tell you, and his urns, statues, sherds, and palimpsests seem to have been acquired on the grey if not completely black market. Here's an Etruscan statue, the labels to the pristine climate controlled boxes would tell you, it is old and probably came from around the Med.
Still, as we're always telling our Greek cousins when it comes to the Elgin Marbles, you've got to protect these things, and Getty certainly knew how to do that in a fantastic, opulent, and breathtaking setting with the Pacific glittering in the background. "Rise early, work hard, and strike oil" was JP's recipe for success. Hannah's done all those, so I'm looking forward to building my villa next door to his sometime soon.
Nice villa, we'll take it!
Pools, statues, immaculately kept plants.
A fellow visitor. The place is on the Monarch migration route, and hundreds of them fluttered about, as if the setting wasn't idyllic enough already.
Fancy a dip?
Yes, Hannah could see herself here.
Here's looking at you!
A cheeky Roman child. The regal face, the haughty manner, the self-assured deportment. Reminds me of my Godchildren.