La Villa

La Villa

La Villa

La Villa


Published in 1559 and appearing here for the first time in English, La Villa is a rare source of Renaissance landscape theory. Written by Bartolomeo Taegio, a Milanese jurist and man of letters, after his banishment (possibly for murder, Thomas E. Beck speculates), the text takes the form of a dialogue between two gentlemen, one a proponent of the country, the other of the city. While it is not a gardening treatise, La Villa reflects an aesthetic appreciation of the land in the Renaissance, reveals the symbolic and metaphorical significance of sixteenth-century gardens for their owners, and articulates a specific philosophy about the interaction of nature and culture in the garden.

This edition of the original Italian text and Beck's English translation is augmented with notes in which Beck identifies numerous references to literary sources in La Villa and more than 280 people and places mentioned in the dialogue. The introduction illuminates Taegio's life and intellectual activity, his obligations to his sources, the cultural context, and the place of La Villa in Renaissance villa literature. It also demonstrates the enduring relevance of La Villa for architecture and landscape architecture. La Villa makes a valuable contribution to the body of literature about place-making, precisely because it treats the villa as an idea and not as a building type.


The idea of the villa has a persistent relevance. La Villa will be of interest to many who have been entrusted with the making of habitable spaces because, in his treatment of the idea of the villa, Bartolomeo Taegio articulated the purpose and meaningfulness that he associated with a particular kind of place. La Villa contains three elements that make it especially relevant for landscape architects. First, it reveals a Renaissance appreciation of land not only for its economic utility but also for its aesthetic value. Second, it is one of only two extant documents that articulate a theoretical formulation of the position of the garden on a hierarchical scale of landscape interventions in terms of the interaction of art and nature: “third nature.” Finally, it offers rare clues to the appearance of sixteenth-century Milanese gardens, and to their symbolic and metaphorical significance for their owners.

When Taegio took up the idea of the villa as the topic for his dialogue, he brought into focus an idea that had been the subject of reflection by others before him, both in the Renaissance and in antiquity. La Villa appeared toward the end of a long tradition of villa literature in Italy, a verbal tradition that suffered a protracted and nearly complete interruption during the Middle Ages. This tradition originated in ancient Rome in the time of the Republic, and continued until the dissolution of the empire. Its recovery, which has been called a revival of villa literature, began in Florence in the fifteenth century and spread northward through the sixteenth century, with significant echoes well into the eighteenth century within and outside Italy. the common theme of this body of literature, to which La Villa belongs, is the idea of the villa.

Taegio’s subject is the idea of the villa, not the villa as a type. Typology is an analytical tool, useful for defining categories of objects and spaces, but not very helpful for understanding the richness of symbolic and metaphorical associations that works of architecture and landscape architecture can have for the people who use them. Typology relates to form-making more than it does to place-

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