Sunday, 13 July 2014

A garden as it might have been: Villa Albergati

villa albergati
villa albergati villa albergati
Villa Albergati is a huge house close to Bologna built in 1659 by architects Bonifacio Socchi and Gian Giacomo Monti. There was a plan for its transformation as an imperial residence for Napoleone Bonaparte, dated back to 1805.
In particular he wanted to plan a new park, full of small buildings in the style of landscape gardens.
We are lucky enough to be able to see today all the drawings made in preparation for this transformation that, unfortunately, never took place.
The project was commissioned by the painter Antonio Basoli and the architect Ercole Gasparini. There are some drawings that show, similar to what would be found in a catalogue, the list of fabriques that had to be scattered across the park.
These drawings are now preserved in the Centro Studi Ville Bolognesi in the city of Zola Predosa, while the plans of the whole garden are exhibited inside the Villa which is now used as a conference center and restaurant.
A few words about the authors, because it will help us to understand why they designed the garden the way they did. Antonio Basoli was a painter and a stage designer. His major works are: Raccolta di Prospettive Serie, Rustiche, e di Paesaggio (1810) and Vedute pittoresche della città di Bologna (1839). His favorite subject was Roman architecture, and it is what his project for the fabriques would eventually look like.
Ercole Gasparini was a famous architect and a teacher at The Academy. Greek and Roman art served as his models evidenced by the huge collection of 277 drawings preserved in the Gabinetto di Disegni e Stampe dell'Archiginnasio in Bologna.
He designs five funeral monuments in Bologna's Certosa.
Returning to the main argument of this post, let's have a look at the big plan of the park, in the first picture. We can easily recognize the key elements of the project: the house is exactly in the middle of the drawing. The garden is divided into two main parts. In front of the house (in the lower part of the drawing) we see the formal garden. The idea of this survives today as you can see in the last picture. Behind the house (in the upper part of the drawing) there is the landscape garden, with all its typical elements: rivers, lakes, hills, and small buildings all around. To be more precise, I have to notice that the closest part to the house, even in the "landscape" side, is designed as a formal garden. This follows the style of William Kent who established that the open area around the house must continue the geometry of the interior.
I didn't find bibliographical resources yet, but here is a list of websites you can look at to read something else about this exquisite place.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A different point of view on Roman gardens

Pierre Grimal
Grimal, Pierre. L'art des jardins. 
Paris: P.U.F., 1954.
Talking about the landscape garden, we often stumble upon the debate concerning its cultural origins. Was it in England, in the far East or in Italy? Was it born in the 18th Century, the 16th Century, or even earlier?
According to Pierre Grimal, who wrote two crucial essays on garden history, the first examples of what we used to call landscape garden come from the Roman era.
In particular from the transposition of Greek landscape paintings into open areas: "This art of landscape garden", he says, "was born thanks to Greek painting, that imposed its aesthetics and even the details of its themes [...] The invention of Roman gardeners was simply to detach the painted landscape and to move it in the open area on the edge of porticos".
We could say that the tradition of planting new gardens while studying a particular kind of painting happened in the Roman era just as it occurred in Eighteenth Century England through the study of landscape paintings.
And, if you think about it, it's not so hard to understand. Wasn't the Roman landscape itself what Lorrain or Pussin were sketching then? It all makes sense, it seems to be a continuous cycle.
And this is just one, for me the most brilliant, of the new perspectives this book offers to those who want to look at garden history objectively.
Another key point of the text is found in the quotation that follows: "Landscape is loved, or considered worthy of the artist's interpretation, only as it proves human presence".
In 1777 René-Louis de Girardin, in his De la Composition des Paysages, writing about the new way of planting and designing a garden, 
says that the endeavor ought to be an initiation of sorts that provides a journey for the people who take its path. And it is in this way that he planned his own park in Ermenonville. Man is a complementary facet of the garden. The same idea is true also for the oriental garden, but this is a point we will analyze in subsequent posts.

Grimal, Pierre. Les Jardins romains. Paris: Fayard, 1944.
Grimal, Pierre. L'art des jardins. Paris: P.U.F., 1954.