Perspective and Italian gardens

The renaissance idea of perspectival space was not confined to painting or architecture. As a means of expressing mathematical harmony and man's place in the natural world, it became an important concept in all of the spatial and visual arts, from marquetry to urban design.

The role of perspective in the gardens of the Italian renaissance is touched upon by Monty Don in his current BBC television series. The second episode (broadcast on 22. April 2011) looks at the gardens of Florence and begins with Cosimo Medici's villa at Castello (c.1537), one of the earliest gardens where these ideas were explored. It is currently available on BBC iPlayer. If you miss that, there is an accompanying DVD and book.

A good starting point for a more detailed spatial analysis of these gardens is:

P Van Der Ree et al (1992) - 'Italian Villas and Gardens', Prestel. Amazon link

Villa Medici at Castello lunette (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The continuing interest in perspective in the design of gardens during the Baroque period can be seen at the Giardino Barbarigo at Valsanzibio in the Veneto, which was laid out to a plan by Bernini in 1669. Here, the central avenue of hedges and trees or 'tapis vert' becomes progressively narrower as its distance from the house increases, using the accelerated perspective effect to make it appear longer when viewed from the house.

Giardino Barbarigo website

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