Gardens and Architecture, Getty Villa

Seeing the Villa Gardens in a Different Light

The East Garden at the Getty Villa at dusk

Magic hour in the East Garden at the Getty Villa

Long evenings and bright sun are taking the place of early dusks and sprinkling rains: spring is here. At the Getty Villa, the light is brilliant even at closing time for a final stroll around the gardens, framing the museum against a cerulean sky.

But is sunshine overrated? Garden historian Patrick Bowe, co-author of the book Gardens and Plants of the Getty Villa, says that to appreciate a garden, we have to experience it in all its moods—emerging ghostlike from a misty fog, lit aflame by an orange sunset, reflected in a fountain dancing with raindrops. Especially at the Villa:

Up to now, photographs of the Getty Villa gardens have always been photographs of the gardens in bright sunshine. And so people who’ve seen pictures of the gardens over decades have associated the garden with the time of the day when there’s bright sunshine…[But] a garden needs to be looked at in different times, and different times of the year. It’s a living composition, depending totally on the light of the moment, and so I think it needs to be experienced in different lights—and therefore different moods.

That’s why Bowe and his co-author, horticulturist Michael DeHart, chose unusual photographs of the Villa gardens for their book, with views from unusual vantage points and under different clouds and suns.

The Getty Villa Outer Peristyle at sunset

The Outer Peristyle at the Getty Villa in dense fog

The Getty Villa Museum building in fog

Hear more from Patrick in this video interview, where he reflects further on the garden as a living creation both horticulturally and historically. Happy spring!

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit wacko. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.

      09/17/14

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