I visited the Getty Villa this morning with my sister Pamela who is visiting from back east . We arrived early enough that there weren’t many slack- jawed tourists incessantly snapping selfies . Instead we had the old gods and newly born spring blossoms to ourselves.
It was heavenly .
There is currently an exquisite exhibition devoted to the classical world’s understanding of the Underworld. Monumental funerary kraters dominate the plum tinted galleries , elaborate narrative paintings scrawled upon the earthen surfaces. There is of course Queen Persephone and her dark consort Hades , Sisyphus can be found toiling eternally under that terrible darn rock and Hermes flitters about oblivious to the sorrows of the shades .
But I was particularly drawn to mighty Herakles , seen time and again battling the fearsome Cerberus- one of his tasks meant to redeem his terrible crimes, the murder of his wife Megaro and their sons the Herakleidai. From one funerary vessel to another his muscular frame could be seen wrestling that multi headed canine fiend .
I’ve drawn inspiration from Herakles all of my life . His madness , the fit of rage that drove him to his terrible sins , although the result of a divine curse from almighty Hera, caused him great anguish. His suffering has always resonated personally as I’ve had a lifelong struggle with at times severe depression and chronic anxiety . He has been in some ways a patron saint .
So much so that I painted a near life sized icon of the weary redeemed hero in my Herakles Tapestry seen here with Parsifal in the foreground.
On one funerary vessel there was a touching image of the ill fated Megara and the sons she bore our hero , they are found forever languishing in dank Hades.
Between visiting darkened galleries devoted to Persephone and her vassals my sister and I popped in and out to delight in the gardens the Villa is so famous for . Glorious spring ephemerals were popping out of the ground as if the dark queen herself was emerging.
Borage being my favorite, with an added joy in the hosts of honey bees darting about .
Perhaps less photogenic but nonetheless important to the Herakles narrative was the hellebores, pale green and tender and so easy to overlook , it however cured our long suffering Herakles from his madness .
I was pleased to see how well it grew and am now encouraged to try it in my own cottage garden . I’m going to close with a few photographic mementos from this fine day with the Shades and the Quick.
The sovereigns of the Underworld
And pretty youths basking in the gifts of Helios
And one less youthful but certainly appreciative of being above Hades realm… for now .
My sister Pamela, this being her first visit to the Getty Villa was dazzled and thrilled as is to be expected.
I’m planning another visit very soon as this featured exhibition Underworld :Imagining the Afterlife closes March 18th.
I recommend catching it before it slips away as easily as Eurydice.