The Renaissance period is known for its impressive innovations and progress in almost every field that defined science and culture of that time. In many areas ranging from art to mathematics, gardening, and fortifications, it has produced numerous examples of advanced and original thought. One of the classic symbols of the Renaissance period is the Italian garden. These gardens were much more than just places of beauty, tranquility, and oneness with nature. The people of that time perceived the garden as a way of communicating with God, as a work of art equal to the creations of sculptors and painters, and as a symbol of majesty and power. This paper is dedicated to furthering the knowledge on this subject.
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The first examples of Italian gardens appeared in Italy at the end of the 15th century. Italy was known to be the cradle of the Renaissance, as many famous artists, engineers, and gardeners of that period were born in that country. The gardens appeared at the villas in Rome and Florence and were intended to be places of rest and contemplation. The design of the gardens was inspired by the classical views on order and beauty. A particular trait present in all gardens, big or small, is the symmetry and axial alignment of the garden and the house. The first gardens were rather small and meant to recreate the styles of classical Roman gardens (“Italian Renaissance Villas and Gardens” par. 4).
However, after the practice had been adopted by the noble and powerful houses of the region, the gardens became much more elaborate. Many of them were decorated with fountains and statues as a way to show the owner’s wealth, power, and generosity. The Italian Renaissance gardens were lauded and praised in music, paintings, and poetry. They had a great influence on the development of the French and English gardens, who tried to replicate the classic Italian designs and adjust them to their traditional patterns.
The Italian Renaissance Gardens were significant for the arts and culture in Italy and beyond its borders. The garden was a joint effort of an artist, a sculptor, a gardener, and an engineer. Also, they were often viewed as sources of solace and inspiration. The literary works influenced the designs of the gardens in turn, as was shown by the romance novel Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published by Francesco Colonna (Turner 1). The Medici, who were ruling the province of Florence at the time, was famous for using their splendid and massive gardens not only to impress the guests but also to demonstrate their power and significance. The statues depicting famous events of the past were often used as hidden warnings to those who may try to oppose the ruling dynasty. The statue of Hercules defeating Antaeus featured at the fountain at Villa di Castello was erected as a powerful symbol, celebrating the victory of the Medici family over its enemies (Ballerini 34).
Unfortunately, many famous and beautiful gardens did not survive up to this day, due to their ever-changing and withering nature. The gardens are known to die with the families that took care of them. The only traces of their former glory could be observed by looking at the numerous fountains and stone statues left behind. Nevertheless, the traditions still live on, as efforts are made to recreate the beauty and splendor of the Italian Renaissance Gardens. This shows how enduring the legacy of the gardens is. They will remain relevant for many years to come.
Ballerini, Isabella Lapi. The Medici Villas: Complete Guide, Florence, Milan: Giunti, 2011.
Italian Renaissance Villas and Gardens, 2016. Web.
Turner, Tomas. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and Renaissance Garden Design History. Web.