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Visiting The Getty Villa in Malibu, California.

Updated on November 15, 2012
Main Courtyard of the Villa
Main Courtyard of the Villa
Neptune,  Black Marble
Neptune, Black Marble
Boy in the Garden, Black Marble
Boy in the Garden, Black Marble
Garden Seat
Garden Seat
Inner gardens
Inner gardens
Original Ranch House
Original Ranch House
UCLA/Getty Masters Program
UCLA/Getty Masters Program
Outdoor Greek Theater and Cafe
Outdoor Greek Theater and Cafe

The History of The J Paul Getty Villa.

In AD 79 Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered parts of Ancient Rome, including the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii, with mud and ash killing most of the population in both cities.

Herculaneum was buried under 60 feet of debris, perfectly preserved, for 1600 years. Workers digging a well accidentally uncovered part of Herculaneum in 1709. Excavation then began. However, it is still incomplete.

One of the many buildings excavated in Herculaneum was the Villa of the Papyri, one of the more luxurious villas found in Herculaneum. The Villa is reported to be that of Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesonius.

Piso was a literate man. He built a valuable library in his Villa. Carbonized papyrus scrolls were excavated intact. The Villa got its name from that discovery. The Villa also contained perfectly preserved sculptures and artwork.

The Villa was surrounded by vegetable gardens and vineyards that led to a small harbor at the sea. Three hundred skeletal remains were excavated on the beach facing the sea. Found in boat houses, huddled together, frozen in time. Spending eternity waiting to be rescued.

By 1954 oil tycoon J Paul Getty was running out of room to house his large and growing collection of artwork at his ranch house in Pacific Palisades, Ca. Getty made the decision to build a gallery adjacent to his ranch.

Getty’s growing collection of artwork soon filled the gallery. He began buiilding a second museum down the hill from his original ranch home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Inspired by the Villa of the Papyri, Getty incorporated some of it's elements into his new museum.

Getty successfully recreated an ancient Roman country house. In 1974 Getty opened his second museum, The Getty Villa, to the public. The Villa offers visitors a sample of life in the first century AD.

J Paul Getty died in 1976 and never saw his Villa. The museum inherited $661 million dollars and a bigger museum was planned and built in Brentwood; Ca. Part of Gettys large art collection was moved to the new location.

The Getty Center in Los Angeles houses a collection of artwork from the Middle Ages to the present.

The Getty Villa in Malibu houses a collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan artwork dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD.

Statutes of Heracles, Zeus, and a jewelry and coin collection are a few of the antiquities on display at the Villa. The inhabitants of Herculaneum worshipped Roman Gods, especially Hercules, who they believed was the founder of Herculaneum.

There is a lot of controversy over art objects in the Getty collection. Italian and Greek governments claim the objects were looted and want them returned. The Getty Museum has agreed to return some of the requested items.

Exposure to the elements by early excavation and the methods used caused a slow process of deterioration. Early excavations centered on recovering valuable artifacts, not ensuring the survival of all artifacts. Modern conservation efforts have been more successful.

A museum wing adjacent to the original ranch house is home to the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation, the first program of its kind in the United States.

Although not open to the public, the campus includes J. Paul Getty's grave on the hill behind his ranch house.

So grab your Getty Guide and go enjoy the magnificent gift J Paul Getty gave to the people of Los Angeles while you still can.


Make sure you step out onto the second floor outdoor balcony and drink in the breath taking view.

Take along a guide to The Getty as many of the pieces of artwork have scenes of Roman battles. The plants are all specific to what you would have found in Ancient Rome. A guide helps you identify things you would normally miss.

If you have time visit The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

Disneyland in Anaheim is a must see. Try to avoid the summer months.

Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:

An ice chest with food, snacks and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.

Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a trash bag.

Take along your Kindle and your cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Down load any e-books and apps that will help you.

Remember to take a great camera along. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.

Streets, freeways, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take a good GPS system with you and visit off season.

What is your favorite artwork period?

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    • Ercolano profile image

      Sam Walker 

      6 years ago

      Interesting, yes I had heard of this reproduction villa. Don't get to California much, but if I ever do would most definitely like to visit here. The papyri from Herculaneum proper, I believe, unless the info is outdated now, is still unread, something to do with x-ray machines and the ink the romans used not conducive to being read by it, although they're hopeful with new technology. Also interesting about the looting, apparently that goes on everywhere, Egypt, for one, artefacts showing up in other countries and governments fighting to get it back. Interesting hub and great pictures. Thanks.

    • Kathy Atwood profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy Atwood 

      7 years ago from California, USA

      You are very welcome Husky1970. I enjoyed writing the piece. Happy Trails!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting hub. Not a topic I was familiar with, so thanks.


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