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The Baroque Garden

a parterre they call Paradise

John Evelyn (1620  – 1705) on the garden at Hampton Court Palace, 9 June 1662

Drawing of a Baroque vase

A Vase in the Royal Gardens at Hampton Court, 1749, by John Vardy ©

The formal garden style evolved in Italy and France in the early seventeenth century and dominated European garden creation until the mid-eighteenth century. This coincided with the period characterised in the arts by the Baroque style. Gardens in this period were conceived on a previously unimaginable scale; land was levelled or raised and swathes of trees were cut down to open up seemingly infinite views into the landscape beyond.

Immense new gardens were dominated by formal parterres, ornamental flower gardens that were laid out in box hedging or in patterns made of cut turf. Long allées, or walks, bordered by trees or hedges were planted and water was re-routed and channelled to supply canals, basins, and fountains on a magnificent scale. The degree to which nature was re-modelled was seen as a direct expression of the power and status of the garden owner.

During this period, garden views emerged as a separate genre in European art. With the design and content of the garden providing rich new material for artistic depiction, the full potential of the garden image could finally be realised. Fine gardens had been acknowledged since the fourteenth century as a mark of status for princes and monarchs. Never before, however, had the image of the garden been harnessed as powerfully to proclaim monarchical power as in late seventeenth century France, Holland and England.