Medici Gardens: From Making to Design

By Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Writing the Garden in the Age of Humanism

Petrarch and Boccaccio

The Medici orti of the fifteenth century were the product of an empirical modus operandi that was by and large indebted to an oral knowledge, handed down over many generations. Because garden making proceeded empirically, its tradition was subject to change, and its practice was probably revised and adjusted according to the outcomes of horticultural experiments. Petrarch’s annotations on gardening reflect an artless kind of plant cultivation, motivated perhaps by an urge to imitate the classics and by a curiosity to verify the reliability of the scriptores’ horticultural advice. His gardening notes as well as his poetry offer an example of a creative activity that was ceaselessly reexamined, just like the tradition of garden making. Moreover, in the same way the Medici gardens were both orti and giardini, the actual gardens of Petrarch defy the clarity of a concept or precise definition.

Unlike Petrarch, Boccaccio does not appear to have been a gardener. However, in the literary making of his pleasances he approximated an idea of design that was not going to be explored until few centuries later. The fact that the morphology of a garden can be separated from its matter is implied in the Decameron, but garden makers would fully explore this concept only when they started drawing layouts of gardens on paper before selecting the actual specimens to be planted, as we shall see in the next chapter. The writings of Petrarch and Boccaccio, as well as those of Ficino, as we shall see in the next section, also help to demonstrate that in the age of humanism gardens were not yet conceived as objects, in the same way the orti dei Medici were not an

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Medici Gardens: From Making to Design
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One- Medici Gardens 10
  • Chapter Two- From Work of Nature to Work of Art 88
  • Chapter Three- Writing the Garden in the Age of Humanism 99
  • Chapter Four- Practice and Theory 146
  • Conclusion 179
  • Appendix A- Letter by Galeazzo Maria Sforza 187
  • Appendix B- Metric Letter by Alessandro Braccesi 189
  • Notes 195
  • Bibliography 275
  • Photographic Acknowledgments 293
  • Index 295
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