Prior to the Renaissance, Medieval gardens were enclosed by walls, creating an outside intrigue of mystery, an interior serenity and privacy to its users. The gardens became an individual’s “Paradise”. The Renaissance however, was a period during which the walls were ‘broken down’; creating one unified landscape that embodied the home, the garden and the landscape surrounding it. The purpose of the garden was for seclusion, serenity and relaxation and was meant to be a unifying experience.
During the Renaissance period, the gardens became inspired by ideals of order and beauty and were intended more for pleasure and contemplation. The removal of walls and boundaries allowed for this to be achieved. Extended views of the garden as a whole became possible, as well as viewing the landscapes beyond the garden itself. Gardens became larger, more expansive, and even more symmetrical than previously constructed, increasing the serenities and harmonies prevalent within their designs. Ornamentation began to increase as well, adding key highlights throughout the gardens. Fountains, statues, grottos, numerous water features, and other ornaments became introduced to the designs of the gardens, meant to intrigue both the owners as well as the visitors to the gardens.
The gardens at the Villa Medici, Fiesole, by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo, are a great example of the changes in garden design during the Renaissance period. The Villa features 3 sectional gardens with Loggias featuring a terrace located off-center in the overall plan. Two of the gardens: The Giardino Segreto and the Lower Garden of the Villa, both feature central water features, with numerous ornaments highlighting the corners of inner design details. The lower garden is laid out in a conceptually symmetrical fashion, with slight difference in the outer two garden squares (one being centrally diamond shaped while the other is circular). The Giardino Segreto is again conceptually symmetrical however its shape is forced to parallel with a low-walled perimeter to the Villa grounds themselves. The very low wall allows for the gardens themselves to flow along into the landscape surrounding them. This allows for visitors to experience both the gardens and its surrounding simultaneously and enhances the ideals of serenity and contemplation.
The centralized water feature begins to be enhanced by elaborate fountain constructions and even replaced by sculptural presences within the Renaissance gardens. The Belvedere Court’s northern and southern courts are both highlighted by centrally placed sculpture pieces which accentuate the grandness of their respective landscapes. Expansive landscapes and grand gestures become key similarities of numerous Renaissance gardens, especially when looking at Villa D’Este and Villa Lante. While one features an overall symmetrical landscape and the second features and offset and seemingly random landscape, the two share one commonality: compared to past layouts, they both are grandly expansive and at times overwhelming. Both are littered with ornamentation, D’Este in a more organized fashion, and Lante in its more randomized yet experientially driven layout. Lante’s central garden layout with the Loggias is however, symmetrically laid out. What is interesting about Lante is one’s ability to meander this outer landscape which is separate from the gardens themselves, but still included in the boundaries of the Villa. It provides numerous outlets for contemplation to take place, a key component to the Renaissance landscape.
Feel free to comment!