Kenneth Lapatin: Rediscovering the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum
Kenneth Lapatin, Curator of Antiquities with the J. Paul Getty Museum, has curated numerous groundbreaking exhibitions of ancient art, perhaps most notably Power and Pathos, the recent blockbuster exhibition of Hellenistic bronze sculpture. In advance of an international loan exhibition at the Getty Villa opening in June 2019, Dr. Lapatin will deliver a lecture addressing the ancient, early modern, and most recent history of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, which ranks among the most significant archaeological discoveries of the past 300 years.
The seaside retreat, reputed to be one of the homes of the father- and brother-in-law of Julius Caesar, was buried by the same eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 that buried Pompeii. Discovered by well-diggers in 1750, it was excavated by a military engineer serving the King of Naples, who not only extracted unique artifacts by tunneling through volcanic debris some 75 feet deep, but also, for the first time, plotted their find spots, thus recording the context his discoveries and, essentially, inventing modern archaeology. Among the finds was not only antiquity's largest single collection of bronze and marble sculpture (depicting a variety of subjects in diverse styles), but also the only preserved library from the Greek and Roman world - thousands of charred bookrolls preserving mostly Epicurean philosophical texts.
The Getty Villa in Los Angeles (itself a replica of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum) will present an exhibition of sculpture, frescoes, and papyri recovered from the site in the eighteenth century, as well as the most recent research and new finds excavated in the 1990s and early 2000s, including rare carved ivories. It will also explore recent high-tech attempts to virtually un-scroll carbonized papyri non-invasively with the aim of recovering additional and yet unknown works of Greek and Latin literature.
Audience Q&A and reception to follow.
Presented by the Department of Art History as part of the 2018/19 Smart Lecture series supported by the Smart Family Foundation