Saturday, February 24, 2018

1500s Time to Wash the Sheep! Serious Work for Peasants - A Merry Spectator Sport for Elites

In the style of Jacob Grimmer (Dutch, 1525-6-1590) Landscape with a Picnic and Spring Sheep-Dipping.  Sheep washing often was not popular with the men working in the water, although apparently the activity was greatly enjoyed by spectators who eagerly anticipated accidental dunkings or watery chases.

For many centuries sheep have been washed in the spring & early summer, before shearing, to clean the fleece of the dirt, grit & grease which inevitably build up over the winter months. It should not be confused with the chemical sheep dipping which is a more recent practice, begun in the 19C, aimed at controlling parasitic infestation. Sheep washing usually involved driving the flock through a fenced off section of running water. Many localities had a traditional site for sheep washing, most were on local rivers or pools, but some villages used the mill pond or even a suitable stretch of a seaside beach. The men would spend hours waist high in cold water & each animal had to be totally immersed & scrubbed. 
Jacob Grimmer (Dutch, 1525-6-1590) Landscape with Spring Sheep-Dipping Detail A woman helps wash the sheep in the water.


Able Grimmer (Flemish artist, c.1570–c.1619) Sheep Washing. A woman out of the pond holds a sheep.


Able Grimmer (Flemish artist, c.1570–c.1619) Four Seasons - Spring Sheep Dipping. Women help tend the sheep on the side of the water.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

1600s Mother & Child in a Walled Garden

1600s Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (Flemish artist, 1561-1635). Lady Anne Cotton (nee Hoghton) with her son John posed in a garden  Most mother with children portraits in the 16-17C are posed indoors.  The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

1540s Couple in an Italian Garden

1540s A Man and his Wife pose by a Lemon Tree by Unknown Italian artist  Unsure of the symbolism of the lemon.  Most portraits of couples from this period were shown indoors.  The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1500s Women in Landscapes attributed to Lucas Cranach & his son & their workshops

Lucas Cranach (Northern Renaissance Painter, 1472-1553)  and his workshop  Portrait of Anna Cuspinian 1502

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.
Lucas Cranach (Northern Renaissance Painter, 1472-1553) and his workshop  Young Mother and Child

Lucas Cranach (Northern Renaissance Painter, 1472-1553)  and his workshop  Portrait of Frau Reuss 1503


Lucas Cranach (Northern Renaissance Painter, 1472-1553)  and his workshop  María Magdalena

Monday, February 19, 2018

1539 Courtly Gardens & Grounds - Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor's Imperial Court of Augsburg

Lucas van Gassel (Dutch artist, 1490-1568) A 1500s depiction of Gardens & Grounds at Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor's imperial court of Augsburg illustrating the temptations of David & Bathsheba using Tennis & Beugelen

The principal literary source of inspiration for this paintings came from the pen of Antonio de Guevara, in particular his Del Menosprecio de la corte y alabanzade la aldea (A Dispraise of the Life of a Courtier), published in 1539. At the end of his preface to the Menosprecio, the author refers to the adultery of David & Bathsheba, as described in the bible. Gassel probably included the maze in his paintings as a tempting symbol of courtly pleasures from which it would be difficult to escape. The subject obviously appealed to the nobility, because between 1540-1560, about 12 copies were made at Gassel’s workshop of the original, all very similar in their layout & all including games such as beugelen & an open tennis court. illustrating the temptations of David & Bathsheba using Tennis & Beugelen.

A hedge maze in the background of this painting is an outdoor garden maze or labyrinth in which the "walls" or dividers between passages are made of vertical hedges. Hedge mazes evolved from the knot gardens of Renaissance Europe. Early garden mazes began to appear in the 16C. These initial mazes were constructed from evergreen herbs, but, over time, box became a more popular option due to its robustness. Italian architects had been sketching conceptual garden labyrinths as early as 1460, and hundreds of mazes were constructed in Europe between the 16C-18C.  Initially, the hedge maze was not intended to confuse, but to provide a unicursal walking path. Puzzle-like hedge mazes featuring dead ends and tall hedges arrived in England during the reign of King William III of England. It was possible to get lost in the much-admired labyrinth of Versailles, built for Louis XIV of France in 1677 and destroyed in 1778. This maze was adorned with 39 hydraulic sculpture groups depicting Aesop's fables. The oldest surviving puzzle hedge maze, at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England, was built for King William in the late 17C. Its distinctive trapezoidal shape is due to pre-existing garden paths running alongside the maze.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

An amazing fanciful Garden Maze - Crispin de Passe 1565-1637

Crispin de Passe 1565-1637 - Theseus And The Minotaur

A hedge maze is an outdoor garden maze or labyrinth in which the "walls" or dividers between passages are made of vertical hedges. Hedge mazes evolved from the knot gardens of Renaissance Europe. Early garden mazes began to appear in the 16C. These initial mazes were constructed from evergreen herbs, but, over time, box became a more popular option due to its robustness. Italian architects had been sketching conceptual garden labyrinths as early as 1460, and hundreds of mazes were constructed in Europe between the 16C-18C.  Initially, the hedge maze was not intended to confuse, but to provide a unicursal walking path. Puzzle-like hedge mazes featuring dead ends and tall hedges arrived in England during the reign of King William III of England. It was possible to get lost in the much-admired labyrinth of Versailles, built for Louis XIV of France in 1677 and destroyed in 1778. This maze was adorned with 39 hydraulic sculpture groups depicting Aesop's fables. The oldest surviving puzzle hedge maze, at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England, was built for King William in the late 17C. Its distinctive trapezoidal shape is due to pre-existing garden paths running alongside the maze.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

1600 Florence Villa Gardens - Villa Medici del Trebbio

Villa Medici del Trebbio by Giusto Utens (Flemish artist, 1558-1609) who painted a series of 14 glasses of villas & amp; Their gardens near Florence. The Villa del Trebbio is a Medici villa in Tuscany, Italy, located near San Piero a Sieve in the Mugello region, in the province of Florence, in the area from which the Medici family originated. It was one of the first of the Medici villas built outside Florence. The estate is situated on a strategic position in the Apennines, on the top of a hill dominating the Val di Sieve, near a crossroads (giving rise to its name, from the Latin trivium).  The villa belonged to Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the founder of the Medici bank & of the fortunes of the Medici family. Following his death in 1429, it was remodelled by his son, Cosimo de' Medici, whose architect, Michelozzo, restyled it as a fortified castle. Michelozzo retained the windowless tower, moat & drawbridge, & added a perimeter walkway with corbels. There is a central courtyard with a well. The villa remained essentially a fortified house, but various features indicate its secondary purpose as a place of pleasure, including an early walled garden, built on two terraces beside the villa. The upper terrace has a stone pergola, with a double row of columns; a similar pergola has disappeared from the lower terrace. The garden was a place of retreat for Cosimo, away from the troubles of politics in Florence, where he could tend his fruit trees. On the other side of the villa stands a chapel. The villa was surrounded by woods & an agricultural estate, bordering that of the Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo. In the 16C the villa was enlarged by Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who enjoyed hunting in the estate, & his son Ferdinand I. Ferdinand II sold the estate to a wealthy Florentine, Giuliano Serragli, in 1644, who gave it to the Oratorians.

By the Renaissance, artists began to paint secular scenes including landscapes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, paintings became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Images began to depict natural landscapes & more formal garden settings, where man was obviously using his intelligence, wealth, & power to shape & control the nature around him for sustenance & for pleasure. Thus, the Renaissance garden became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house or art collection.

1587 Flemish Landscape with Gardens

1587 Lucas Van Valkenborch (Flemish painter, c 1530-1597)  Landscape with Gardens

Monday, February 12, 2018

1575 Letter describing the Gardens at Kenilworth Castle during Queen Elizabeth's visit

Kenilworth Castle from the south in 1649, adapted from the engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) 

Kenilworth Castle is located in Warwickshire, England. Constructed from Norman through Tudor times, Kenilworth was the subject of the 6-month-long Siege of Kenilworth in 1266. The 16C Earl of Leicester expanded the castle, constructing new Tudor buildings & exploiting the medieval heritage of Kenilworth to produce a fashionable Renaissance palace. Kenilworth was the scene of the Earl of Leicester's lavish reception of Elizabeth I in 1575.

Robert, Earl of Leicester hoped to ensure that Kenilworth would attract the interest of Elizabeth during her regular tours around the country. Leicester's work was apparent during the queen's last visit in 1575. Leicester was keen to impress Elizabeth in a final attempt to convince her to marry him, & no expense was spared. Elizabeth brought an entourage of 31 barons & 400 staff for the royal visit that lasted an exceptional 19 days; 20 horsemen a day arrived at the castle to communicate royal messages. Leicester entertained the Queen & much of the neighboring region with pageants, fireworks, bear baiting, mystery plays, hunting & lavish banquets. The event was considered a huge success & formed the longest stay at such a property during any of Elizabeth's tours, yet the queen did not decide to marry Leicester.

One of the participants in the festivities wrote a letter to a friend during the Queen's visit. "A letter wherein part of the entertainment unto the Queen's Majesty at Killingworth Castle in Warwickshire in this summer's progress, 1575, is signified;" the author (probably Robert Langham) provides a detailed description of the castle's gardens

"Unto my good friend, Master Humfrey Martin, Mercer...

"Unto this, his Honour's exquisite appointment of a beautiful garden, an acre or more of quantity, that lieth on the north there. Wherein hard all along the castle wall is reared a pleasant terrace of a ten foot high & a twelve broad, even underfoot & fresh of fine grass, as is also the side thereof toward the garden, in which, by sundry equal distances, with obelisks, spheres & white bears all of stone upon their curious bases by good show were set; to these, two fine arbours redolent by sweet trees & flowers, at each end one. The garden plot under that with fair alleys green by grass, even voided from the borders a both sides & some (for change) with sand, not light or too soft, or soily by dust, but smooth & firm, pleasant to walk on as a sea-shore when the water is avaled. Then, much gracified by due proportion of 4 even quarters, in the midst of each upon a base a 2 foot square & high, seemly bordered of itself, a square pilaster rising pyramidally of a 15 foot high, symmetrically pierced through from a foot beneath until a 2 foot from the top, whereupon, for a capital, an orb of a 10 inches thick; every of these (with his base) from the ground to the top of one whole piece, hewn out of hard porphyry & with great art & heed (thinks me) thither conveyed & there erected.

"Where further also by great cast & cost the sweetness of savour on all sides, made so respirant from the redolent plants & fragrant herbs & flowers, in form, colour & quantity so deliciously variant, & fruit-trees bedecked with their apples, pears & ripe cherries...

"In the centre (as it were) of this goodly garden was there placed a very fair fountain, cast into an 8-square, reared a 4 foot high, from the midst whereof a column up set in shape of 2 atlantes joined together a back-half, the tone looking east, tother west, with their hands upholding a fair-formed bowl of a 3 foot over, from whence sundry fine pipes did lively distil continual streams into the receipt of the fountain, maintained still 2 foot deep by the same fresh-falling water, wherein pleasantly playing to & fro & round about carp, tench, bream & -- for variety -- perch & eel, fish fair-liking all & large. In the top, the ragged staff which, with the bowl, the pillar, & 8 sides beneath were all hewn out of rich & hard white marble. A one side, Neptune with his tridental fuskin triumphing in his throne, trailed into the deep by his marine horses. On another, Thetis in her chariot drawn by her dolphins. Then Triton by his fishes. Here Proteus herding his sea-bulls. There Doris & her daughters solacing a sea & sands. The waves surging with froth & foam, intermingled in place with whales, whirlpools, sturgeons, tunnys, conches & whelks, all engraven by exquisite device & skill, so as I may think this not much inferior unto Phoebus' gates which (Ovid says) -- & peradventure a pattern to this -- that Vulcan himself did cut, whereof such was the excellency of art that the work in value surmounted the stuff, & yet were the gates all of clean massy silver. Here were things, ye see, might inflame any mind to long after looking, but whoso was found so hot in desire, with the wrest of a cock was sure of a cooler, water spurting upward with such vehemency as they should by & by be moistened from top to toe. The hes to some laughing, but the shes to more sport. This sometime was occupied to very good pastime.

"A garden then so appointed as wherein aloft upon sweet-shadowed walk of terrace in heat of summer to feel the pleasant whisking wind above or delectable coolness of the fountain spring beneath; to taste of delicious strawberries, cherries & other fruits even from their stalks; to smell such fragrancy of sweet odors breathing from the plants, herbs & flowers; to hear such natural melodious music & tunes of birds. To have in eye, for mirth sometime these underspringing streams; then, the woods, the waters (for both pool & chase were hard at hand in sight), the deer, the people (that out of the east arbour, in the base-court, also at hand in view), the fruit-trees, the plants, the herbs, the flowers, the change in colors, the birds flittering, the fountain streaming, the fish swimming, all in such delectable variety, order & dignity whereby at one moment, in one place, at hand without travel, to have so full fruition of so many God's blessings, by entire delight unto all senses -- if all can take -- at once; for etymon of the word worthy to be called paradise, & though not so goodly as Paradise for want of the fair rivers, yet better a great deal by the lack of so unhappy a tree. Argument most certain of a right noble mind, that in this sort could have thus all contrived." 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

1600 Florence Villa Gardens - Villa Medicea di Marignolle

Villa Medicea di Marignolle by Giusto Utens (Flemish artist, 1558-1609) who painted a series of 14 glasses of villas & their gardens near Florence.  The Villa di Marignolle is a Medici villa in the hills between Galluzzo & Soffiano, in the south-western suburbs of Florence, in Tuscany in central Italy. It passed into the hands of the Medici family after the Pucci Conspiracy, when it was confiscated from Lorenzo di Piero Ridolfi by Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.  By the Renaissance, artists began to paint secular scenes including landscapes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, paintings became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Images began to depict natural landscapes & more formal garden settings, where man was obviously using his intelligence, wealth, & power to shape & control the nature around him for sustenance & for pleasure. Thus, the Renaissance garden became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house or art collection.

Italian Gardens & Grounds - Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (1528-1588)

Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) ((Italian, 1528-1588) Garden Landscape with Villa and Carriages (detail)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

1490 Watching the Year Fly by in the Cultural Landscape - Grimani Breviary

Grimani Breviary The Month of January 1490-1510

The Grimani Breviary is an illuminated manuscript of the Ghent-Bruges school of book illustration, dating from 1490-1510. It contains 831 parchment sheets with illuminations on 1280 pages and 110 pictures all of them in a decorated frame. The miniatures represent different styles, are attributed to Hans Memling, while others to Alexander and Simon Bening (1483-1561) . The name comes from Cardinal Grimani of Venice, who purchased this illuminated manuscript in 1520 for 500 golden ducates.
Grimani Breviary The Month of February 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of March 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of April 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of May 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of June 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of July 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of August 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of September 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of October 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of November 1490-1510
Grimani Breviary The Month of December 1490-1510

Friday, February 9, 2018

1600 Florence Villa Gardens - Villa Medicea La Petraia

Villa Medicea La Petraia laid out by Niccolò Tribolo by Giusto Utens (Flemish artist, 1558-1609) who painted a series of 14 glasses of villas & their gardens near Florence.  Petraia is one of the most attractive of the Medici villas, both on account of its position in the Tuscan landscape, & for its fine pictorial decoration & the beauty of its garden & park. Originally an ancient fortified residence, which preserves its great tower, it was enlarged at the end of the 16C to create the present villa with its beautifully designed terraced garden. The Medici family purchased the villa in the middle of the 16C. Around 1566-1568, Cosimo I had the complex restructured, & gave it to his son Ferdinando I (first cardinal, & later Grand Duke) who completed the works. The garden in front of the villa develops on three superimposed terraces, created by means of major infill works. Water served exclusively to irrigate the areas of the garden planted with fruit trees & officinal plants. The old castle that already existed in 1362 changed owners several times (Brunelleschi, Strozzi, Alessandra dei Bardi, Salutati) & was finally acquired by the Medici when they returned to Florence in 1530. Transferred from Cosimo I to his son, Cardinal Ferdinando in 1568, it was enlarged & transformed into a Villa on initiative of the latter who became Gran Duke after the death of his brother Francis I (1587). 

By the Renaissance, artists began to paint secular scenes including landscapes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, paintings became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Images began to depict natural landscapes & more formal garden settings, where man was obviously using his intelligence, wealth, & power to shape & control the nature around him for sustenance & for pleasure. Thus, the Renaissance garden became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house or art collection.

14C - 16C Sheep & Women in the Cultural Landscape

 England (Lincoln), c. 1325-35 British Library, Additional MS 42130, Folio 87v

England (Lincoln), c. 1325-35 British Library, Additional MS 42130, Folio 163v The man is shearing, the woman is milking.


 Sheep Shearing, Duke du Berry, Books of Hours (c. 1410)

A sheep-shearing feast is the setting for Act IV of William Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale
"Wife make us a dinner, spare flesh neither corne,
Make wafers and cakes, for our sheepe must be shorne,
At sheep shearing neighbors none other thing craue,
but good cheer and welcome, like neighbors to haue"


 Petites Heures de la reine Anne de Bretagne. Date d'édition  1401-1500


Simon Bening (1483-1561) April Farmyard with woman milking cow and shepherds driving sheep from byre. From the Da Costa Book of Hours, Bruges, c. 1515. MS. M.399, fol. 5v.


Book of Hours (Jehan de Luc, 1524)


Jean Fouquet c 1415-1481 Saint Margaret herding sheep From Hours of Etienne Chevalier.


A farmer watches his wife shearing sheep. Book of Hours, Italo-Flemish, early 16C

Thursday, February 8, 2018

15C Lady with Unicorn Coat of Arms sits in a Garden - Martin Schongauer ( c.1450-1491)

Martin Schongauer, Lady with Unicorn Coat of Arms. Martin Schongauer ( c. 1450-1491) A German engraver and painter that developed his own technique of engraving.  His work was further developed by other artists like Albrecht Durer.  He has approx. 116 known engravings mostly about religious topics, but some are of a comedic nature.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

1600 Florence Villa Gardens - Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano

Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano in 1599 by Giusto Utens (Flemish artist, 1558-1609) who painted a series of 14 glasses of villas & their gardens near Florence.  This Grand Ducal villa is situated on a hill on the shores of the river Ombrone. Poggio a Caiano is located at the intersection of straight lines from Florence to the city of Pistoia, & from the city of Prato & to Montalbano. Poggio a Caiano lies 9 km south of the provincial capital of Prato.The building of the villa was almost entirely due to Laurence the Magnificent who built the Medici Villa on the site of an ancient castle which once belonged to the powerful Cancellieri family of Pistoia. After 1420 it was bought by the Strozzi & finally by the Medici. The villa at Poggio a Caiano always remained the summer residence of the Medici, and, other than hosting numerous notable personalities, it was a stage for the important events in their history, such as the weddings of Alessandro dè Medici & Margherita d'Austria (1536), Cosimo I & Eleonora da Toledo (1539), & that of Francesco I & his lover Bianca Cappello (1579). From the hill that gives the town its name there is a fine view over the plain of the Ombrone & Bisenzio rivers toward Prato to the north & Florence to the east, & over the lowlands leading to Pistoia & the Appenine mountains. It was not by accident that Lorenzo de' Medici chose this site to build his Villa, the building which is still the most dominant in the town, to the point that the one is always identified by the other. The Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano was built by Lorenzo dè Medici & his heirs from the design of Giuliano da San Gallo between 1485 & about 1520, with a probable break in construction from 1495 to 1513 because of the exile of the Medici from Florence. It always remained the summer residence of the Medici, and, other than hosting numerous notable personalities, it was a stage for the important events in their history, such as the weddings of Alessandro dè Medici & Margherita d'Austria (1536), Cosimo I & Eleonora da Toledo(1539), & that of Francesco I & his lover Bianca Cappello (1579). 

In 1473 a ruined fortified house at Poggio a Caiano, called the Ambra, & land & a mill owned by Giovanni Rucellai, were bought by Lorenzo de’ Medici. First, agricultural improvements were carried out, then in 1485 work started on the Medici Villa del Poggio, the Villa on the Hill, to designs by Giuliano da Sangallo commissioned by Lorenzo. Prior to the building of this villa large country dwellings were defensive, fortified & with rooms looking into a central courtyard. Built on a quadrangular base around a large central hall with rooms having windows overlooking the surrounding countryside, the Villa del Poggio was revolutionary. At Lorenzo’s death in 1492 the villa remained largely unfinished, work being resumed when Lorenzo’s youngest son, Giovanni became pope as Leo X. The central hall is named after this first Medici pope. In the following century the villa was used by the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany; in 1587 Francis, the second Grand Duke, & Bianca Capello died at there within a day of one another after short illnesses, raising the still unsolved question of their poisoning by Francis’s brother Ferdinand, who became the third Grand Duke. The formal gardens, now somewhat wild, slope down to the River Ombrone at the rear of the villa. Next to the Villa there are several buildings such as the chapel (where one finds the "Pietà with Saint Cosimo & Saint Damiano" painted in 1560 by Giorgio Vasari)

By the Renaissance, artists began to paint secular scenes including landscapes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, paintings became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Images began to depict natural landscapes & more formal garden settings, where man was obviously using his intelligence, wealth, & power to shape & control the nature around him for sustenance & for pleasure. Thus, the Renaissance garden became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house or art collection.

Garden Fountains for Bathing & Ornament.

Bathing in a garden fountain, from the fresco at Castello di Manta, c. 1411

See:

Archibald, Elizabeth, “Did Knights Have Baths? The Absence of Bathing in Middle English Romance,” Cultural Encounters In The Romance Of Medieval England, edited by Corinne Saunders (Boydell, 2005)

Caskey, Jill, “Steam and “Sanitas” in the Domestic Realm: Baths and Bathing in Southern Italy in the Middle Ages,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 58, No. 2 (1999)

Harvey, Barbara, Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience (Clarendon Press, 1993)

Holmes, Urban Tigner, Daily Life in the Twelfth-Century (University of Wisconsin Press, 1952)

Lucas, A.T., “Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland,” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 95, No. 1/2 (1965)

Newman, Paul B., Daily Life in the Middle Ages (McFarland and Co., 2001)

Smith, Virginia, Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity (Oxford University Press, 2007)

van Dam, Fabiola I., “Permeable Boundaries: Bodies, Bathing and FLuxes, 1135-1333,” Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. Patricia Baker (Brill, 2012)

van Winter, Johanna Maria, “Medieval Opinions about Food and Drinking in Connection with Bathing,” Spices and Comfits: Collected Papers on Medieval Food (Prospect Books, 2007)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Garden Fountains for Bathing & Ornament.

Two couples and two single figures in a garden square bath with a fountain at center; illustration to an unidentified Latin edition of Sebastian Münster, Cosmographia, probably printed by Petri in Basel, c. 1544-52.

See:
Did people in the Middle Ages take baths? Medievalists.net April 13, 2013

Archibald, Elizabeth, “Did Knights Have Baths? The Absence of Bathing in Middle English Romance,” Cultural Encounters In The Romance Of Medieval England, edited by Corinne Saunders (Boydell, 2005)

Caskey, Jill, “Steam and “Sanitas” in the Domestic Realm: Baths and Bathing in Southern Italy in the Middle Ages,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 58, No. 2 (1999)

Harvey, Barbara, Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience (Clarendon Press, 1993)

Holmes, Urban Tigner, Daily Life in the Twelfth-Century (University of Wisconsin Press, 1952)

Lucas, A.T., “Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland,” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 95, No. 1/2 (1965)

Newman, Paul B., Daily Life in the Middle Ages (McFarland and Co., 2001)

Smith, Virginia, Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity (Oxford University Press, 2007)

van Dam, Fabiola I., “Permeable Boundaries: Bodies, Bathing and FLuxes, 1135-1333,” Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. Patricia Baker (Brill, 2012)

van Winter, Johanna Maria, “Medieval Opinions about Food and Drinking in Connection with Bathing,” Spices and Comfits: Collected Papers on Medieval Food (Prospect Books, 2007)

Monday, February 5, 2018

1600 Florence Villa Gardens - Villa Medici di Castello

Villa Medici by Lorenzo di Castello purchased this de 'Medici in 1477 by Giusto Utens (Flemish artist, 1558-1609) who painted a series of 14 lunette glasses of villas & their gardens near Florence,  for the 3rd grand duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I, in 1599–1602.

The Villa di Castello, in the hills near Florence, Tuscany, central Italy, was the country residence of Cosimo I de 'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519 to 1574). The gardens, filled with fountains, statuary, & a grotto, were famous throughout Europe. The villa housed some of the great art treasures of Florence, including Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Renaissance masterpieces Venus & amp; Primavera. The gardens of the Villa Had a profound impact upon the design of the Italian Renaissance garden & later on the French formal garden.  Villa Castello is located in the hills northwest of Florence, near the small town of Sesto Fiorentino. The Villa Was located near a Roman aqueduct, & took its name from the water cisterns (castella) near the site. A fortified building had been standing on the site since at least 1427 & was purchased in 1477 by Lorenzo & Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de 'Medici, who reconstructed the old building, added a courtyard, a loggia, kitchens & a stable. The house was inherited by a famed mercenary soldier, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere & his wife, Maria Salviati, the relatives of Cosimo who was born in 1519 & lived in the house as a child.

In 1537, the 26-year-old Duke of Florence, Alessandro de 'Medici, was assassinated, & Cosimo, though he was only 17 & a relatively unknown a member of the Medici family, was elected by the men of Florence to replace him. In 1537, the young Cosimo faced a rebellion by a faction which wanted to turn Florence into a Republic. He defeated them at the battle of Montemurlo, & established himself as the unrivaled ruler of the city.  Cosimo I de Medici was 19 years of age, at the time he was building the gardens of Villa di Castello. The garden level is based on  harmony & order, the principles upon which Cosimo planned to rule Florence. Was the garden filled with statuary associating the virtues of ancient Rome with the power & virtue of the ruler of Florence. Walking through the garden, visitors saw busts of the Medici dynasty in ancient Roman costume.  Once his power was secure, Cosimo began to spend more time at his villa in Castello. As the architect & writer Giorgio Vasari wrote, "At this place the Duke Began to build a little, one thing after-Reviews another, to the end he might that be there more commodiously, himself & his court."  Cosimo commissioned the engineer Piero da San Casciano to construct a system of aqueducts to bring water to the villa & its gardens, the sculptor Niccolò Tribolo to create fountains, statues & a garden, & the architect Giorgio Vasari to restore & enlarge the villa.  First, under the leadership of Piero da San Casciano, an aqueduct constructed from the Castella was built higher up the slope of Monte Morello connected to a small tank he built on the hill above-the villa. Later, when more water was needed, another aqueduct was built from another spring at Petraia.  Tribolo's design for the garden was described in great detail in Vasari's Lives of the Artists. The garden was constructed on the site of the original walled garden, which ran from the villa up the gentle slope toward the mountain. On the hillside above the back wall of the garden, there was the water tank. Here Tribolo created a bosco, simulated natural forest, separated from the garden by a high retaining wall. Below this, he divided into the old walled garden by two other walls , & carved out a small upper terrace & a broad lower terrace, connected by two ornamental stairways. The smaller upper garden was planted with orange & lemon trees, trained to grow up the walls. It also contained, in the center of the back wall, the entrance to the grotto, a small cellar which resembled a natural cavern, richly decorated & filled with sculpture.  The larger lower garden was divided into squares, like small rooms, divided by paths & bordered by hedges & rows of cedar & olive trees, & filled with flower beds. In the center of the terrace was a circular labyrinth of cypress trees planted with laurel, myrtle & roses. In the center of the labyrinth was fountain crowned by a statue of Venus. And second, larger fountain, crowned with a bronze statue of Hercules defeating Antaeus. 

The hydraulic system of the garden was one of the wonders of the age, & it also played a significant share in the symbolism of the garden. In the center of the tank above the garden, in the "sacred wood" was a statue of Appenino symbolizing the mountains of Tuscany, portrayed as an old man shivering, with water pouring over his head. Water flowed from the tank down bronze pipes & emerged in two fountains built in the retaining wall on either side of the grotto, representing the two rivers of Florence. Water flowed into the grotto, running down the walls. The two "rivers" in their channels flowed through the garden.  Fountains during the renaissance depended upon gravity, & the elevation of the water source above-the fountain, to make the water shoot upwards. Because the water source for the fountain of Hercules & Antaeus was high on the hillside above the fountains, a jet of water spouted a full 3 meters. Once it had passed through the fountains, the water flowed in two separate channels into two small private gardens on either side of the villa, & then entered 2 wide fishponds in front of the villa. After that, the water was used to irrigate the fields & gardens below.  The garden contained a series of ingenious giochi d'acqua, or "water jokes," to entertain the Duke & his visitors. The grotto designed so that by turning a key the gate would lock. Guests inside the grotto would be soaked with water from hidden pipes. The fountain of Hercules to be was surrounded by a circle of trees, & a hidden pipe. By turning another key, spectators looking at the fountain would be sprayed with water from  hidden nozzles. Aussi There Was a small house Located in the branches of an oak tree Enormous, just east of the garden. The house was Reached by a stairway, & amp; contained a marble table & amp; a fountain served by pipes from the tank.

The garden was designed to deliver a clear political message; That, after-long period of warfare & Suffering, Cosimo was going to lead Florence into a new Golden Age, with peace, prosperity, & harmony.  Tribolo placed symbolic messages throughout all the garden. The fountain of Hercules & Antaeus showed how Cosimo, like Hercules, had defeated enemies by his wisdom, rather than just brute strength. The fountain of Venus Was a tribute to Venus, one of the symbols of Florence.  It was a reminder that she had Ruled Venus over the islands of the Hesperides. Venus was honored inside the Villa, where Cosimo placed the famous painting by Botticelli, the Birth of Venus.  Tribolo continued the post symbolic statuary throughout the garden. The stairways were decorated with busts of the Medici rulers Earlier, in Roman costumes. Tribolo placed statues around the gardens representing the four seasons, & the virtues of the House of Medici - justice, compassion, valor, nobility, wisdom, & liberality.  The garden was only not just form of political theater; It was a pleasure garden as well. Cosimo's letters revealed that he spent many long summer afternoons with his family enjoying the coolness of the shade & the fountains. Important visitors to Florence also visited the gardens. Their fame spread around Europe.  Vasari wrote, "too much occupied with the affairs of the Duke." He was able to personally finish the 2 major fountains, & the 2 rivers. He died in 1550, & the statues for the fountains were finished by his pupil, Antonio di Gino.

Work on the villa & gardens continued for 20 years. Cosimo began making new apartments in the Palazzo Vecchio, & he purchased this Pitti Palace in the 1549, & began building the Boboli garden, with more fountains & an even larger grotto, decorated with statues by Michelangelo. Struck by the death of 2 sons from malaria, he retired from political life, turned power over his heir, Francesco I de 'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, & spent the last 10 years of life in the villa & gardens.  Cosimo died in 1574, & long succession of the Villa Medicis occupied these gardens. Ferdinando I de 'Medici completed the villa in this form in 1588 &1595, enlarging the east side, remaking the facade, & adding a new entrance on the south side.

By the Renaissance, artists began to paint secular scenes including landscapes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, paintings became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Images began to depict natural landscapes & more formal garden settings, where man was obviously using his intelligence, wealth, & power to shape & control the nature around him for sustenance & for pleasure. Thus, the Renaissance garden became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house or art collection.

Ladies on horseback trampling Flowery Meades from the Visconti tarot deck by Bonifacio Bembo c.1450

Horsewoman from the Visconti tarot deck by Bonifacio Bembo c.1450

The flowery mead is one of the essential components of many medieval gardens. Poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) in his 1348 Decameron painted a vivid picture of what a villa and garden of a wealthy Florentine was like. "In the midst of the garden a lawn of very fine grass, so green it seemed nearly black, coloured with perhaps a thousand kind of flowers…shut in with very green citrus and orange trees bearing, at the same time, both ripe fruit and young fruit and flowers so that they pleased the sense of smell as well as charmed the eyes with shade." This description has its parallels in the tapestries produced during this period…known as the mille fleurs or thousands of flowers.

These images of royal women  & their attendants riding outdoors are on cards from the collection of Visconti Tarot cards of the Cary Collection of Cards, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. Originally commissioned in the 15C by the Viscontis, a Milanese family that dominated the cultural life of northern Italy in the 14C - 15C, this deck is one of the oldest sets in existence. The cards are attributed to Bonifacio Bembo, an Italian fresco artist who flourished between 1447-1478. The deck includes 11 trump cards, six court cards, including the King, Queen, Male Knight, Female Knight, Male Valet, and Female Valet, as well as the unusual addition of the 3 Theological Virtues - Faith, Hope and Charity. The unique addition of the female knight and valet may be an indication that this set was intended to be used by a female member of court.
Horsewoman from the Visconti tarot deck by Bonifacio Bembo c.1450

These playing cards are remnants of early Italian tarot packs. The tarot, originally a game of uncertain origin, came to be associated with fortune-telling several centuries after its appearance in central Europe in the late 14C. Perhaps the most beautiful surviving example of this form is the Visconti tarot, 67 particularly extravagant hand-painted cards with gold, silver, and miniature Renaissance portraiture.
Horsewoman from the Visconti tarot deck by Bonifacio Bembo c.1450

The complex history of these cards led to the identification of this deck with different names: “Visconti di Modrone Tarot,” from the Milanese noble family that possessed the deck until World War II. and “Filippo Maria Visconti Tarot,” from the name of the man who commissioned it.