RSA 2021 — Gardens and Academies in Early Modern Italy

Date : 22 avril 2021
Horaire : 10h00-15h30
Lieu : RSA Virtual 2021 - Meeting Room 15

This sessions of the RSA 2021 Annual Meetings (Dubin) are organized by Ginette Vagenheim (University of Rouen-Normandie) and Denis Ribouillault (University of Montreal).

Introduction to Gardens and Academies in Early modern Italy I, II & III.

The aim of these sessions is to explore the place and role of gardens in early modern academies and, conversely, the place of what might be called “academic culture” in early modern gardens. Although research on academies has developed considerably in recent decades, little has been written about the places where they met, including gardens, with the possible exception of the Bosco Parrasio in Rome. How did an academy choose its setting and why? How have literary and scientific activities and debates influenced the architectural, artistic and/or horticultural qualities of the place chosen? In other words, can the iconography of gardens be linked to academic activities? These questions demand that the garden be considered as a place of performance and require a multidisciplinary and intermedial approach.

The first panel explores known and unknown gardens of 15th century Rome and the Roman Campagna, whose function is intrinsically linked to the culture of the Roman Academy founded by Pomponio Leto. Next, the question is raised as to how the humanist culture of this first generation of gardens evolved after the sack of Rome and the profound transformation of the religious and political landscape that followed. Through case studies of 16th-century gardens in Rome and northern Italy, the second panel explores the ways in which “academic culture,” characterized by a dynamic dialogue between different disciplines, provides a fundamental intellectual framework for addressing the complexity of the design, decoration and planting of early modern gardens. The third panel focuses on 17th- and 18th-century gardens in Genoa and Milan and how their links with literary and scientific academies gave prestige to their owners, even serving as a tool to legitimize the noble claims of certain aristocratic families.

Gardens and Academies in Early Modern Italy I
[Thurdsay, April 22, 2021 10.00 AM-11.30 AM RSA Virtual 2021 – Meeting Room 15] Chair: Ginette Vagenheim, University of Rouen-Normandie

Alessia Dessì, University of Rome – La Sapienza
Pomponio Leto and his Garden: New Evidence on its Archaeological Context
In the second half of the 15th century, the Roman Academy founded by Pomponio Leto was the most important humanist circle in Rome. Eminent scholars met in Leto’s house and garden to discuss ancient history, mythology and poetry. The aim of the sodalitas was to rediscover the past through literature, but also through the tangible ruins of the Roman landscape. For this reason, the location of Pomponio’s house on the Quirinal hill was very important. Thanks to new archival discoveries, it is now possible to know more about the exact location of the house and its garden in the area called Montecavallo, near the ruins of the Baths of Constantine and the statues of the Dioscuri. The location of the garden on the Quirinal hill is of crucial importance for the development of the Roman cultural and artistic environment.

Tiziana Checchi, Colonna Archive, Subiaco
The unknown “places of delights” of two Colonna Cardinals in Subiaco
This article focuses on two little-known gardens located in the territory of the Abbey of Subiaco: one located at the foot of the hill on which the Fortress of Subiaco is built, and the other situated near the castle of Agosta. The latter site, known as Peschiera, was considered a place of recreation by several popes, including Pius II Piccolomini, who described it in his Commentaries. It was also chosen as a privileged setting for convivia by the commendatory abbots of Subiaco. In these gardens, Cardinal Giovanni Colonna (1456-1508) and his successor Cardinal Pompeo (1479-1532) organized banquets and literary discussions hosted by poets such as Evangelista Madaleni Capodiferro and Marcantonio Casanova, both closely linked to Pomponio Leto and the Roman Academy. Thanks to the analysis of the verses composed by these poets and to new archival and iconographic evidence, it is possible to reconstruct the characteristics of the two gardens and the cultural life that animated them.

Ingrid Rowland, University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway
From Arcadia to Jerusalem: The Transformation of Roman Academic Gardens in the Sixteenth Century
The cataclysmic religious and political upheavals of sixteenth-century Rome also brought on a transformation of the way in which Roman humanists experienced the Christian version of classical otium cum dignitate. In the earlier part of the century, the focus of suburban gardens like those of Angelo Colocci and Blosio Palladio focused on harmonizing antiquity with Christian spirituality, whereas post-Tridentine villas like Villa Lante, Villa Farnese at Caprarola, and Villa d’Este at Tivoli (all roughly contemporaneous) transformed the idea of a humanist’s garden into sites for spiritual pilgrimage, but also for hard-headed diplomatic initiatives. For some of these learned gardens we know more about the antiquities they contained; in the case of avid gardener Blosio Palladio, thanks to a thick cache of letters, we also know a good deal about the plantings.

Gardens and Academies in Early Modern Italy II
[Thursday, April 22, 2021 12.00 PM- 1.30 PM RSA Virtual 2021 – Meeting Room 15] Chair: Lauro Magnani, University of Genoa

Denis Ribouillault, Université de Montreal
The “Academic” Plane Tree in Early Modern Gardens
The iconological method pioneered by Erwin Panofsky and the intellectual circle indebted to Aby Warburg was first applied to the history of gardens in David Coffin’s famous monograph on the Villa d’Este in Tivoli in 1960. However, this approach is still largely focused on architecture and sculpture, while the study of plants, flowers and trees is generally treated as separate from the literary and poetic culture that provides a framework for the more or less elaborate “meaning” of Renaissance pleasure gardens, as if the natural sciences and literary culture were disciplines independent of each other. In this paper, I examine the plane tree (Platanus Orientalis) and the ways in which its use and location in several Renaissance gardens are related to ancient literature and especially to its prestigious association with Plato’s Academy. The plane tree was considered a true Platonic emblem and “a living antique.”

Alessandro Spila, Politecnico di Torino
Botany and Academy. The Gardens of Cardinal Del Monte in Late Sixteenth-century Rome
Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte (1549-1626) was a man of great cultural eclecticism. He was the pioneer of a new culture based on the observation of naturalistic and artistic phenomena. His residence in Palazzo Madama can be considered a true Academy, whose meetings were held during the summer season at the Giardino degli aranci, as well as in the garden of his second residence on the banks of the Tiber. Because of his health problems, medical and botanical sciences were at the center of the cardinal’s interests, and in his circle gravitated personalities of the caliber of the linceo Fabio Colonna (1567-1640) and Tobia Aldini, active in the gardens of Villa Aldobrandini a Magnanapoli and the Farnesian Gardens. This article proposes a documentary reconstruction of the two private gardens of Cardinal Del Monte in Rome, which can be considered as potential models for the gardens of Federico Cesi in Rome and Acquasparta, seat of the Accademia dei Lincei.

Sergio Monferrini, Archivio Dal Pozzo d’Annone
The “Academy” of the Isola Bella of Vitaliano VI Borromeo
For forty years, Vitaliano VI Borromeo (1620-1690) transformed a “bare rock” into “a miracle of art and nature,” bringing to life what is today Isola Bella, one of the islands of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. Vitaliano welcomed on his garden-island distinguished guests such as the writer Carlo Maria Maggi, the mathematician Pietro Paolo Caravaggio, the Jesuit Fathers Barella and Edera, thus giving life to an academy particularly interested in moral philosophy. Although not institutionalized, this “Accademia dell’Isola” met in the gardens where musical performances were staged on the themes of pleasure and usefulness, in the wake of the ethical discussions that developed there, and which also found an echo at the Accademia dei Faticosi in Milan. The decoration of the garden was conceived also in relation to its philosophical and “academic” function, which this article will attempt to describe and explain.

Gardens and Academies in Early Modern Italy III
[Thursday, April 22, 2021 2.00 PM- 3.30 PM RSA Virtual 2021 – Meeting Room 15] Chair: Denis Ribouillault, University of Montreal
Respondent: Ingrid Rowland, University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway

Lauro Magnani, University of Genoa
Academicians and their Gardens in Genoa (17th-18th centuries)
Lo Stato rustico by Gian Vincenzo Imperiale (1582-1648), first published in Genoa in 1607, describes a charming visit to the gardens of his villa. This publication marks the height of the fame of the Genoese aristocrat, politician, writer, collector and patron of the arts, an important member of many Italian academies. In Lo Stato rustico, the Imperiale garden is described with labyrinths, artificial caves, fountains and water games, ponds and aviaries, plantations, a wood and a lake: a setting that served as a backdrop for the meetings of the academicians. Starting with the example of Gian Vincenzo Imperiale’s garden and the praise of Arcadia in the Di Negro garden described by John Evelyn, this paper explores the ways in which the literary and scientific interests of academicians impacted the iconography and organization of their gardens, an idea that would become even more evident in the 18th century in the gardens of the Durazzo, Della Rovere and Lomellini families.

Elizabeth Terry-Roisin, Florida International University
A Morisco’s Renaissance Academy, The Generalife Gardens of Granada, and a Turkish Pavilion in Genoa
In early modern Spain, a family who descended from the Nasrid sultans converted from Islam to Christianity shortly before the fall of Granada in 1492. This elite Morisco family, the Granada Venegas, became the guardians of the palace and gardens of the Generalife, opposite the Alhambra. It was here in the 16th century that a Venetian ambassador urged the young poet Juan Boscán to imitate Italian forms in his Spanish poetry. The family’s patronage of Renaissance poets in Granada helped them in their quest to be accepted into the Spanish nobility. In the following centuries, the Genoese cousins who inherited their titles became the absentee lords of the Generalife gardens. In 1840, they built the Villa Durazzo-Pallavicini outside Genoa, with gardens and a “Turkish” pavilion that was more reminiscent more of the Generalife palace in Granada than the Topkapi in Istanbul. This paper examines how poetry, memory and gardens play together in this complex family history spanning centuries and cultures

Maria Cristina Loi, Politecnico di Milano
The Milanese Colony of the Arcadian Academy
The Milanese colony of the Arcadian Academy – established in the city since 1704 at the behest of Father Gian Antonio Mezzabarba – found the ideal location for its meetings in the garden of the residence of Count Carlo Perusati. At the beginning of the 18th century, Count Perusati, a member of an important family from Alessandria and a prominent figure of the Lombard aristocracy, bought the vast green area behind his palace and transformed it into an Italian garden, which became the new seat of Arcadia. The Arcadia garden is the most important example of the 18th-century garden in Milan and is the first Lombard example of a winter garden, a style that became widespread in the second half of the 18th century. Thanks to the documentation found in the Milanese archives, it is possible to reconstruct in detail the life of the Academy and its headquarters, and thus the role it played in contemporary Milan.