Ancient Herbs in the J. Paul Getty Museum Gardens

Jeanne D’Andrea with illustrations by Martha Breen Bredemeyer


98 pages

PDF file size: 10.5 MB


The Getty Museum building re-creates an ancient Roman villa on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, where guests can feel that they are visiting the Villa dei Papiri before it was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The climate of Southern California has made it possible to plant the gardens with dozens of herbs, flowers, and fruit trees known to the Greeks and Romans. In classical times they were practical as well as beautiful, providing color, perfume, home medicines, and flavorings for food and drink.

Martha Breen Bredemeyer, a San Francisco Bay area artist, was inspired to paint two dozen of the garden’s herbs. Her watercolor gouaches combine vibrant color with the fragile delicacy of these short-lived plants while her pen-and-ink drawings share their wiry grace. Jeanne D’Andrea discusses twenty-one of the herbs in detail after presenting their place in myth, medicine, and home in the introduction.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum Herb Garden
  • Medicine, Botany, and Magic
  • House and Garden
  • Herbs: Basil, Bay, Borage, Chamomile, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Iris, Mint, Mustard, Myrtle, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rose, Rosemary, Rue, Saffron, Sage, Thyme
  • Glossary
  • Map of the Herb Garden
  • Selected Bibliography