Medici Gardens: From Making to Design

Medici Gardens: From Making to Design

Medici Gardens: From Making to Design

Medici Gardens: From Making to Design


Medici Gardens: From Making to Design challenges the common assumption that such gardens as Trebbio, Cafaggiolo, Careggi, and Fiesole were the products of an established design practice whereby one client commissioned one architect or artist. The book reverses the usual belief that a garden is the practical application of theoretical principles extracted from garden treatises, and suggests that, in the case of the gardens in Florence, garden making preceded its theoretical articulation.

Drawing from Medici tax returns, inventories, and correspondence, Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto examines the transformation of these gardens from functional and pleasurable kitchen gardens to symbols of political power and family prestige. The Medici gardens of the fifteenth century were the result both of everyday living and of a poetic activity that was influenced by cultural expectations and societal demands.

Crossing disciplinary boundaries, the author compares the making of actual gardens to that of the literary pleasances described by Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Ficino. Although the fictional gardens appear "designed" in that their place within literary works is carefully thought through, their actual counterparts are the product of a modus operandi, indebted to horticultural knowledge handed down from one generation to another in a slowly evolving tradition.


This book examines the nature of the early Renaissance Medici gardens on the outskirts of Florence. in particular, it is an inquiry into the human intentions and motivations that guided the construction and cultivation of gardens, orchards, and kitchen gardens within the Medici properties of Trebbio, Cafaggiolo, Careggi, and Fiesole (fig. 1).

Recently it has been argued that the role of these properties within the history of the Florentine villa in the early Renaissance has been much overemphasized, in that this tiny sample is often considered representative of fifteenth-century Florence. (Amanda Rhoda Lillie’s Florentine Villas in the Fifteenth Century: An Architectural and Social History [2005] is an example of this argument.) This consideration is all the more accurate if one takes into account that among the studies on these villas, the few that address their gardens tend to portray them not only as typical of early Renaissance Florence but also as the prototypes of the giardino all’italiana. Writings on the most popular of the Florentine gardens tend to reiterate information that is often taken for granted, and accepted without reservation. Therefore, the history of the Medici gardens deserves to be addressed, although only those that were built and/or renovated in the early Renaissance will be reviewed here.

This book takes as its starting point the understanding that garden history lies as much in the history of the gardens as it does in historiography itself. and the writing of history is the reflection not only of an author’s cultural and professional background but also, like the gardens themselves, of the times in which it occurs. It can be influenced, for example, by ideologies and strategic rhetoric. the very definition of the Italian garden style occurred at one of those moments in which history merged with historiography in the service of centralized authority. in fact, the history of the Italian garden that many foreign expatriates wrote during their sojourn in Florence toward the end of the nineteenth century was rewritten in the first half of the following . . .

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