This photo of Talitha Getty and her husband Paul was taken by Patrick Lichfield in 1969, on a rooftop in Marrakech. The couple embodied the bohemian-luxe look of the 1960’s and the photo has inspired many fashion collections since.
After a brief spell as an actress, Talitha Pol met oil heir John Paul Getty and they married in Rome in 1966. The newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Marrakech, where they bought Le Palais du Zahir, or the Pleasure Palace as they called it. It was there that Lichfield’s photograph was taken, featuring John Paul hooded in the background and Talitha at the forefront wearing an ornate silk kaftan.
It was also in Morocco that Talitha met Yves Saint Laurent and subsequently became his muse. In 1984, two decades later, Yves Saint Laurent said of the Getty’s: “I knew the youthfulness of the Sixties. Talitha and Paul Getty lying on a starlit terrace in Marrakech, beautiful and damned, and a whole generation assembled as if for eternity where the curtain of the past seemed to lift before an extraordinary future…” making a reference to the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Beautiful and the Damned.
The couple divided their time between London, Rome and Marrakech. They were an IT couple and counted The Beatles, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull amongst their friends. However, behind all the wealth, beauty and glamour lay a dark reality – both Talitha and her husband had descended into drug addiction.
Talitha and Paul became parents to Tara Gabriel Gramophone Galaxy Getty but soon after, their relationship started to break down and Paul had an affair. Talitha left Rome and moved into their London apartment with their son. In London she began an affair of her own with French aristocrat and playboy, Count Jean de Bretuil. However, a short while later Talitha went back to Rome to try and repair her marriage.
Tragically, Talitha Getty died from a heroin overdose in Rome in July 1971, though the precise details of her death remain a mystery. It is thought that she got the heroin from Count Jean de Breteuil, who incidentally also sold a lethal dose of the drug to Jim Morrison. She was only 30 years-old. Paul Getty fled the country, in fear of being arrested and moved to London.
In 1973 another tragedy struck Getty’s life. His oldest son from his first marriage, Paul Jr, was kidnapped in Calabria, Italy. The kidnappers even cut off his ear and sent it to an Italian newspaper. After his father paid the ransom, Paul Jr was freed. Unfortunately he was an addict like his father and suffered a stroke as a result of an overdose, which left him paralysed at just 25 years-old.
Paul Getty Senior began to overcome his addictions in the 1980’s after an expensive stint in rehab and became a philanthropist, dedicating much of his time and money to charity. He died in 2003 aged 70.
The iconic photo of Talitha and Paul Getty is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.