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Italian Renaissance Garden

 

Whether it be from the inspiration of the ancient Greek and Roman, Medieval or Islamic - Italian Renaissance gardens are soaked in myth, tradition and history. You can see your first hint of it in the impressive bronze wolf  at the entranceway to the Italian Renaissance Garden at Hamilton Gardens. It is a testament to the ancient fable of Romulus and Remus. Above the entrance path spans equally characteristic, arched trellis work. Deliberately beautiful it is a suitable introduction to the elegance of the bubbling water features and square planted beds below.

 

Design

Italian Renaissance Gardens evolved from many sources, in particular the Arab garden traditions although Islamic symbolism was given a Christian interpretation. The other major influence was a revival of interest in the cultures of antiquity, and the Renaissance designers constantly tried to emulate and surpass the ancient Greek and Roman achievements. This included accommodating antique sculptures or copies of antique figures like the copy from a mould of the original 5th century Capitoline wolf with Romulus and Remus in the Italian garden. The two babies, Romulus and Remus, were thrown into the Tiber River, which carried them to Platine where they were suckled by a she-wolf and then raised by a shepherd.

Renaissance gardens were also an evolution of the Medieval garden and many of the elements from that earlier era were retained such as the high surrounding walls, flat square beds with edges lined with plants, beds of simples, flowery meads, and the arched trellis work. The major difference in the Renaissance gardens was the introduction of a strong central axis and the discovery of linear perspective as a link between the main buildings and the different portions of the garden. Gardens became separated into compartments that could be named, enclosed, and hidden to create an unfolding sequence of spaces. The axis organised and unified the whole composition.

Geometry was seen as a reflection of a divine and cosmic order and a lot of Renaissance study was focused both on trying to find geometric patterns in nature and then trying to recreate this codified order in architecture, art, town planning and gardens. Long successions of theologians from St Augustine onwards were convinced that numbers and proportions were divined and that a secret canon could be partially derived from Holy Scripture. Art and science were strongly linked and a study of proportion and the human figure created a framework for a classical order of perspective, proportion, symmetry, and geometric forms, circles and triangles. These forms have provided the underlying grid for the Hamilton Gardens example.