Getting some inspiration at the Roman Gardens today.
The Getty Villa has always been a source of inspiration to us and now that many of the COVID restrictions have been lifted, we quickly seized the opportunity to renew our acquaintance and made a reservation. Today, we finally had our change to take a break from work and make a leisurely visit, free of directional arrows and the like.
One of the most attractive aspects about the Getty Villa are the gardens where one can see a wide variety of color in an incredible setting.
The architecture is fascinating and especially how sculpture is blended in with the plantings and the buildings.
This is just one example of the amazing colors to be seen. The best of the gardens is the herb garden but unfortunately, that’s closed for renovation. The natural world has always been an inspiration to us and we strive to incorporate it into our designs through various fabrics and colors arranged in a multitude of ways. We definitely have plans to return in the near future. 🙂
Today we decided to break a from work and get out of the Atelier so we headed off to our favorite museum, the Getty Museum in Malibu. Located only 20 minutes away, we come here often when we need to recharge our aesthetic batteries, so to speak, or simply want to take a break in a relaxing setting while getting a little culture. This time we also wanted to see a special exhibit called Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures From The Villa Dei Papiri which features a number of items that have been excavated from the area buried under volcanic ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD (the Getty Villa is modeled on the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum). Below is a picture of the area today with the excavations:
After a leisurely breakfast, we arrived at the museum just as it was opening (which we highly recommend). We started our viewing with the Roman gardens which have always been an inspiration to us:
Here in Southern California, we’re blessed with sunny warm weather almost year-round and combined with the Villa’s location next to the ocean, it’s an excellent environment for a garden- basically Mediterranean conditions similar to Italy (except for the desert part…). The colors are amazing and especially the shades of green. While it’s not Giverny, it’s still very striking and refreshing, especially on a warm summer day. Here’s a couple more views:
Inside, we pretty much viewed the collection in a somewhat haphazard manner, focusing on pieces that particularly interested us. One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to Classical antiquity is that the sculpture was always white and color wasn’t used…not so! Actually, many sculptures were painted were often used to denote eyes and the like; it’s just that over thousands of years most of the color paint has worn off. 🙂 Also, we tend to view Classical antiquity in shades of black and white and while we can’t really offer a profound explanation, we think that’s just a matter of aging and how people perceived the items when they were newly excavated- especially in the past 200 years or so. Here’s a couple of examples from the collection:
It’s probably not that obvious from the photos but looking at these in person, you can make out the remnants of paint, especially about the facial features. While sculpture made up a good part of Classical artworks, here’s something that a bit different and fascinating in its own right- mummy portraits:
These were found as part of mummified bodies with these portraits depicting the deceased individual. These was typical of funerary practices in Roman Egypt during the 1st through 4th Centuries AD and they represent a continuation of the funerary practices going back to the times of the ancient Egyptians. The portraits were painted in a tempera and gilding on wood. It’s interesting how Roman portraiture was combined with traditional Egyptian mummification to produce this hybrid. Here’s a more complete mummy:
Note the use of traditional Egyptian symbols. Here’s a better picture, courtesy of the Getty:
And a detailed look at the portrait:
The use of color and gold gilding is striking and it goes a long way towards the dispelling the myth of the “colorless” Classical world. Also, it’s interesting that these portraits closely resemble Christian icon portraiture, something that would start developing a little later on in the same area of the world. Amazing how things flow…. 🙂
Another artwork that caught our eye was this funeral marker:
This stele was originally painted and it depicts a woman wearing a kandys, a robe-like garment of Persian origin that was developed into a women’s coat worn by Greek women (especially in Athens) by circa 400 BC. But what struck us was that this basic style shows up during the 1910s…
This is the perfect illustration of the old saying “what is old is new again”… 🙂 There was a lot more that we looked at but in the interests of space, we’ll draw this post to a close. The main takeaway for us was that color was as much a part of the Classical world as ours today and that the fashions of one era can influence another, even if they’re divided by thousands of years. We’ll conclude with this thought: It’s easy to treat this as commonplace but it’s an amazing phenomenon when one thinks about it. Bear in mind, before the era of the internet and inexpensive (relatively) art books with full-color plates, fashion designers such as Worth as Poiret camped out in museums- it was the only way to get a sense of fashion history.