Herculaneum Inspires Millionaire J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

Getty Museum

Getty Museum

The architecture of the Getty Villa Museum in Los Angeles was inspired by Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum

In November of 1940, John Paul Getty was in Rome at the Excelsior Hotel on Via
Veneto, where he sat reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He started
making his purchases there, having decided to concentrate on acquiring busts of Greek and
Roman heroes and the decorative arts of the 18th century. At that time neither was keenly
sought by other collectors. Getty was both prescient in taste and a bargain hunter. At the
time he built the Getty Museum, which opened at Malibu, California, in 1974, his was the
third most important collection of classical antiquities in the U.S. and worth $200 million, by
his own evaluation, far more than he had paid for it.

The museum replica of the Villa of the Papyri was designed with the help of
archaeologist Norman Neuerburg of California State University at a cost of $17 million. In
addition, Getty provided a $2 billion endowment to ensure its perennial maintenance, and
this allowed the creation of a separate scholarly library. The museum was to be free of charge
to visitors, and Getty calculated that the net personal cost to him was $3 per visitor or, with
300,000 annual visitors, $900,000 a year.

— from Chapter XIV, “;The Library at the End of the Tunnel”
Pompeii Awakened, A Story of Rediscovery
(I.B.Tauris, 2007, 2015)