College Night at Getty Villa

July 24, 2017

Posted: November 18, 2015, 8:00am

Last Tuesday, the Getty Villa in Malibu opened its doors for a special afterhour’s tour for students across Southern California. The Getty Villa is a recreation of a first century Roman country house – the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy – that was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The Villa houses the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection of approximately 44,000 Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. The museum was established by J. Paul Getty, an art enthusiast and philanthropist in 1954 and was expanded to the Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The Office of International Services at USC made sure that Trojans too had a chance to enjoy this amazing cultural experience and appreciate Mr. Getty’s artistic legacy. College Night promised to offer us a tour of the exhibits, a behind-the-scenes look at the Conservation Lab, a chat and pictures with Roman reenactors, and some fun activities like caricatures, fortune telling, temporary tattoos of Greek and Roman figures, and of course do it yourself laurel wreaths. Around 50 of us came together for the trip that was fully organized by OIS.

As soon as we got there, I joined a tour of the Conservation Lab. The curator for the lab explained to the audience in detail the process of excavating, lifting, backing and cleaning ancient mosaics. We got a privileged viewing of some of the pieces that the lab was currently working on and that would be displayed to the public next April. One such piece, that portrays Lucius and Minus bear-hunting, is actually composed of 23 smaller pieces which collectively weigh so much that it is not physically possible to display them on the floor together. It was quite fascinating to appreciate the texture and intricacies of the tesserae – the term used for the individual pieces in a mosaic – up close. Next, I joined in on the Faces of Mummies tour and yes, I saw a real mummy – in a glass box of course. The aim of this tour was to educate the audience about the difference between Egyptian and Roman mummification. The Getty Museum has on display, the mummified remains of a young man who lived in the Roman colony of Egypt at the time of his death. While purely Egyptian mummies do not have any kind of drawings on them, the Romano-Egyptian mummies were decorated with cartonnage (funerary masks) and portraiture. The evening ended with some pictures with Roman reenactors – fine gentlemen who explained to me the art of Roman and Greek warfare and let me try on a Centurion’s helmet, some really heavy armor and a shield to complete the look. All around, the trip was a really enriching experience that combined art, fun and education in a neat little package.

Published on July 24th, 2017

Last updated on August 10th, 2017