Roman Mosaics Across the Empire, the fascinating new exhibition currently on view at the breathtakingly beautiful and historic Getty Villa offers visitors a rare chance to see a wide variety of incredibly intricate stone floor and wall designs from all over the ancient world, including Gaul (modern-day France) and North Africa. Open until January 8, 2018, this stunning collection helps us gain a much better understanding of daily life and mythology during the Roman Empire. While attending the show, be sure to spend some time with these 5 highlights, as they are especially intriguing due to their awe-inspiring artistry and backstories.
DIANA AND CALLISTO SURROUNDED BY A HUNT (DETAIL), A.D. 175-200
Why We Picked It: Discovered in the charming provincial town of Villelaure, France, this mosaic fragment depicts the popular myth of Diana and Callisto. As Diana was the goddess of the hunt, she is depicted surrounded by hunters chasing deer and wild boars. Hunting was a beloved pastime for the rich in this period, so it would make sense for the owner of this once extravagant villa to feature this mythological figure. Diana’s companion in this image is Callisto, a young nymph who devoted herself in service to the goddess. Image via the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Phil Berg Collection.
PORT SCENE (DETAIL), A.D. 1-300
Why We Picked It: Under the Roman Empire, the region known as Africa Proconsularis (northern Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya) became extremely wealthy through agriculture, trading, and fishing. Here we see a bustling port scene depicting all the different types of sea life in the region as well as a whole host of boats out on the seas trying to make their fortunes. Image via the Ferrell Collection.
ORPHEUS AND THE ANIMALS, A.D. 150-200
Why We Picked It: Surrounded by personifications of all four seasons and images of a bear, a goat, and lions, here we see the face of Orpheus, a mythical musician and poet perhaps best known for his journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice. This scene depicts the moment where all of the living creatures, including the rocks and trees of Mount Olympus gathered around to listen to him play his enchanting lyre. Image via the J. Paul Getty Museum.
BEAR HUNT (DETAIL), A.D. 300-400
Why We Picked It: In this Italian mosaic, we see three hunters clad in tunics and boots hunting a pack of bears. Both groups move across the canvas from left to right as the bears growl and snarl at the men. This piece is remarkable due to its sense of movement, perspective, and shading. Image via the J. Paul Getty Museum.
COMBAT BETWEEN DARES AND ENTELLUS, A.D. 175-200
Why We Picked It: Two male boxers fight with a ferocious white bull in the background of this gripping, violent work. We know from Virgil’s Aeneid that the scene depicts the fight between Dares, a young Trojan and Entellus, an older Sicilian man during the funerary games hosted by Aeneas, the future founder of Rome in honor of his recently deceased father. Dares challenged anyone in the crowd to fight him. Entellus accepted the invitation and quickly defeated him. Aeneas intervened before he can kill the Dares and offered a white bull to kill instead. It would also honor the gods. Entellus, the bearded man on the left, has just slaughtered the bull as Dares walks away in disgrace. Image via the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Getty Villa is located at 17985 Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.