Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)


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In the midst of it, birds were singing; the rose, as queen of the garden, was growing; and so did the Marian lily, among other fragrant and medicinal plants. There stood tufted benches where one could sit. There spouted a fountain where the virgin maid could bathe. There grew humble and local flowers. Another walled garden was that bare square of lawn mirroring the sky, ornate with scarce trees or shrubs: Detail from an illustration for the French translation of La Teseida by Boccaccio.

Masonry high walls, a wooden arbour with climbing vine, trellised roses, a turf bench, a confined space. To design their gardens, the princes hired the most fashionable artists. Following the example of the antique villas, those great architects and designers considered the garden as linked to the plan of the pleasure house, to the plan of the palazzo.

They drew axes and organised volumes.


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Their view was mathematical, dictated by rulers, T-squares and pairs of compasses. All of the Renaissance culture was aiming at the harmony of forms. The notion of proportions was echoing all the trends of philosophical speculation, of mathematics and of the arts of that time. The budding art of gardening was one of the most acute expressions of it: Harmony was an incarnation of love itself, notably through the worship of Pan and Venus.

Gardens were changing all natural elements water, light, air, growth into elements of art; and all utopian designs were fundamentally artificial. Nature was then a means. And without an artist, nature was considered as merely vulgar and useless. Renaissant Italy, as all Europe would soon do, was opening onto the stars; painters inserted visions of remote landscapes into their paintings vedute ; architects arranged their buildings into rows of long perspectives. A parcelled out, odd, ill-assorted space was criss-crossed with parallel and perpendicular axes.

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The Miroir aux Prêles, Renaissance decorative arts.

Heterogeneousness, asymmetry and exiguous juxtapositions fell into order to form a unified, structured space. Sequences of adjoining spaces were then preferred; successive extensions and the use of tree-lined straight lanes made axial links between the different parts of the garden and enabled points of view and symmetry. In its humanistic impetus to combine classical antiquity heritage to modern political and religious ideas, what the Renaissance brought was to think that aesthetic aspects did not pertain exclusively to the field of faith but also depended on individual needs and interests, and so the garden was gradually designed for the aesthetic pleasure of a private person.

This art of gardens was born in the countryside where the princes were trying to escape the uproar of city life. The villa, in the Italian meaning of the word, id est the whole farming property, comprising its arable domain, its fattoria , its outbuildings, its wine cellars and oil presses, its park, this villa became the object of all emulations, of all expenses.

Less quarrelsome times enabled the villa to get rid of its fortifications and to open onto the surrounding country Piccolomini a Pienza….

Yet, the first Medici villas in the vicinity of Florence were still medieval fortresses Trebbio, Cafaggiolo, Poggio a Cajano, …. Monasteries, which were the hearts of Christian culture in the Middle Ages, were gradually supplanted by the new villas where circles of artists and philosophers gathered into academies Marsile Ficin at Careggi. To recover the antique villa and its art of living made a new objective for the two centuries to come.

The general antiquomania in towns like Rome often took the form of looting the antique vestiges that were outcropping everywhere in order to furnish the newly created gardens. Medici villa of Poggio a Cajano , detail of the painting by Giusto Utens. The terrace and the galleries open onto the garden and the surrounding countryside.

Leon Battista Alberti , a humanist and an architect, was one of the first to theorise and spread these new values. He drew his ideas from ancient texts Vitruvius and Cicero. In the 9th of his Ten books on Architecture written between and , he was dealing with the garden layout in relation to the private villa, a rural palazzo not too far away from town, that must fulfil individual needs so much for Michelozzo in the Medici Villa of Fiesole, opening the villa onto the landscape and considered the climate.

For him, the utilitarian garden was part of the farming domain and did not belong to the private villa. His view remained mainly medieval, yet he thought about new items such as ornamental box, myrtle and laurel, he considered ivy-covered cypresses and quincunx arrangements of trees, and recommended that geometric shapes be made by bending and interlacing Citrus and Juniper branches, leading the way to new aesthetics.

Tree-planted alleys, bowers and pergolas, were playing a very structuring part in the design of Renaissance villa gardens. In the 16 th century, domes capped intersections.


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Windows were cut in hedges to open the view. Wood structures seldom survived beyond the 17 th century. Trimmed hedges made of laurel, myrtle, holm oak and laurustinus then slowly replaced the arbours, in association with rows of lanky cypresses, and were cut higher and higher as the 17 th century proceeded, to end up by representing a very symbol of the classical garden. Joris Hoefnagel, illumination showing a parterre with drawn beds and arbour all around whose pillars are herms, late 16th century. Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy Alley of One Hundred Fountains.

Another recurring element was the parterre. This parterre was not a flower-bed, but refers to a planted area that was divided into compartments, an area that, itself, consisted in flower-beds parterre, from the Italian partire , divide. The first drawings were symmetrical and very simple. The compartments were separated from one another by sand or gravel paths. The different patterns were only visible from the villa windows or from the upper terraces. Every motif was walled out from the next chamber and the different drawings did not particularly fit into the decorative programme of the rest of the garden.

More complex patterns using circles and ovals appeared in second half of the 16 th century. Circles and squares, as perfect shapes, were images of a cosmos inspired by God, like in the Islamic architecture. The drawings by Sebastiano Serlio were then widely taken up. Models for parterres at the turn of the 17th century in Flore overo cultura di fiori distinto in quattro libri by Giovanni Battista Ferrari, Rome , describing notably those in the garden of the collector Francesco Caetani, duke of Sermoneta, near Cisterna, to the south of Rome.

The tree-planted nature of the garden could also apply to the whole garden, then scattered with mythological statuary Bomarzo. The bosco is here a labyrinth. Palazzina Farnese, Caprarola, Italy. The irregularities of the Italian ground, subjected to the play on perspective, permitted the creation of grottoes, amphitheatres, tiers, stairs flights, ramps and loggias. This configuration was the crucible, the nest for endless hydraulic fantasies: In the 16th century, the villa too was drawn in a central position, in line with the garden Este, Caprarola, Aldobrandini.

As most of the time, to assert something is often to imply one admits its opposite could also be true. To say that the Renaissance was characterised by coming back to all the sensuality of the antique mythological world is to forget that the Reformation, and then the Counter-Reformation, have yielded extremely strict religious positions.

To say that the medieval garden was a walled-in space is to forget that it represented a huge opening compared to the thickness of the fortress walls. And to say that the Renaissance garden is partly defined by perspectives and openings already suggests the possibility of the opposite reaction: The hortus conclusus did not disappear in the Renaissance. This plane surface divided into flowerbeds, encircled by trellised vines, parted by arbours, watered by a central fountain, made a recurring, almost compulsory cell, a wall-in anachronism that escaped the general open layout of the garden.

In the Quattrocento and the Cinquecento , its marginal nature, compared to the giardino grande , evicted it from the garden map and cast it beyond the garden limits. The late 16th century and early 17th century connected it to private life, hence to the villa, which it then adjoined most of the time. The private nature of the giardino segreto made it a unique term in the writing of the garden poem, amongst fish ponds, grottoes, gazeboes, coppices, mazes, alcoves, pools, aviaries, fountains, tree-lined alleys and tunnel-vaulted bowers. If it was disconnected from the rest, due to its secret nature, it was close to the heart and the intimacy of the prince of the premises.

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Here, the latter could withdraw from public ceremonies, games, feasts, entertainments and parades; here he could detain and admire some rare species of plants that the general keen interest of the powerful for curiosity cabinets incited him to collect. The giardino segreto was linked to the realm of the studiolo , the study, which was sometimes a chamber for art and wonders, or to the scrittoio , the library. The theories about the history of gardens in the Renaissance were indeed expressed mainly by architects and artists, but philosophers, theologians and gardeners wrote too.

These paper gardens were not always actually planted.

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Where Alberti and Erasmus were staying very close to literary tradition, Francesco Colonna developed rich and acute visions on the drawing, the structure and the nature of the items that should compose and organize the garden. The decorative quality of both the gardens and the classical architecture was then very important. Detailed descriptions of complex labyrinths, of rows of arcades covered with ivy, of carved trees and ornamental statues were furnishing what was at first a medieval garden, located on the island of Cythera, and consisting of the traditional vegetable and herb garden, supplemented with an orchard and an arboretum.

The island was divided into three areas: Each individual area was enclosed with pergolas with pavilions at the intersections. Each pavilion consisted of four ionic columns supporting an entablature with red architrave on which were placed cupolas overgrown with yellow roses. Boxwood topiary, a giant carrying towers, colonnades and water-spouting serpents were some of the features. The central parterre was characterised by its knot ornaments, each of which with a kind of marble altar at its centre, bearing pruned spruces and box trees.

The enclosure of this area was made up of citrus trees cut into a round shape, box trees cut like a sickle moon, conical juniper bushes and myrtle hedges. The ideas of Colonna have influenced all Renaissance Europe. Alleys divide the garden into four sections of equal size. Nothing is said about the patterns of the parterre.


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    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)
    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)
    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)
    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)
    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)
    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)
    Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition) Jardins secrets de la Renaissance: Des astres, des simples et des prodiges (French Edition)

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