Cultural Osmosis: Getty Villa

I went to the Getty Villa recently. It’s part of my effort to not end up the kid in class who when asked, “So, what did you do with your summer vacation?” has to admit to not having done much more than sit on her gluteal maximus and picked her nose all season long. (It’s not now summer, and I’m not 8 anymore, but you get the point.)

In any case, with a great deal with feet dragging, a couple of long sighs & a light cough of $15 for parking, I managed to propelled myself out of my apartment and into Mr. Getty’s Roman villa. Now, I didn’t take the architecture tour, but I saw the Getty’s architecture genius right away. You see, right at the entrance of the villa, before a single Roman god, goddess, or satyr is seen, are the villa cafe and gift shop. The cafe even had some delicious aromas wafting out it. Genius!

I did manage to see a few exhibits (while suppressing my baser instincts to stuff my face). One of the exhibitions that really gave the waffles a run for the money is the current Molten Color. This blew my mind (as opposed to my stomach). Glass! Glass from the 1st century AD and earlier. Isn’t that crazy? Below are some specimens.

Glass bowl as old as Julius Ceasar

Flask as young as Nero

Don’t they look so . . . modern? Can’t you imagine seeing them in some touristy shops or some “old” downtown boutiques? There were even some Bronze Age statues that to my philistine eyes look very much like modern, abstract art. They had exaggerated proportions, odd placement of limbs, and under the Getty show lights, look very much like they could have been displayed in a modern art gallery without too many people batting an eyelid. Well, without too many philistines’ eyelids fluttering, that is.

There were plenty of pieces at the Villa, however, that would not be mistaken (even by waffle-addled brains) as being of any but the antiquity period. The most pronounced examples of these are the, ahem, unclothed statues. I suppose having come into existence before “their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked“, these Greek demigods, athletes, and archetypes of the human body were quite blithely fig-leaves free. This may lead to some ogling by viewers in our prudish age.

A 2000-year old youth

Either a lot, or only slightly, older than me

Above are two examples of nudes from the Getty Villa. Both are controversial figures — the Victorious Youth on the left is the object of a vicious custody battle between the Getty and the Italian government. The Kouros on the right, despite his great hair, firm buttocks, and good posture, may in fact be a forgery.

Finally, because we can’t have nudity without violence, below is the Mummy of Herakleides, a hypothesized murder victim in his 20s.

Forever 21?

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