Monday 13 February 2023

The frescoes from a wealthy seaside villa

Three panels acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1983.
Inv. 83.AG.222.2, 4, 8.

In 1983 the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired a series of Roman frescoes on the 'European market', in fact from Palladion Antike Kunst in Basel. The Getty's handbook suggests that they are derived from ‘a wealthy Roman’s seaside villa in the area of the Bay of Naples’. 

Elizabeth Marlowe has commented on the displayed fragments, suggesting that the panels had been removed from a single room somewhere in the vicinity of Vesuvius. Indeed, there are fragments that were acquired at the same time that clearly come from a third panel, presumably from the same room. Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini have recently drawn attention to the problematic nature of these frescoes and published an image of a further section of the decoration that appears in the Becchina photographic archive. 

How does the Getty interpret the history of the fragments? Is the museum actively seeking to return the sequence of fragments to Italy?

Lapatin, K. D. S., and K. Wright. Editors. 2010. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.
Marlowe, E. 2020. "The reinstallation of the Getty Villa: plenty of beauty but only partial truth." AJA 124: 321–32. [Online]
Rizzo, D., and M. Pellegrini. 2021. "The Italian Archaeological Heritage Abroad: Between Agreements, Debates and Indifference." In Stolen Heritage: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in the EU and the MENA Region, edited by A. Traviglia, L. Milano, C. Tonghini, and R. Giovanelli, Antichistica, vol. 29: 99–114. Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari. [Online]

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