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The Renaissance Garden

For “Paradise”... means nothing more than a most pleasant garden, abundant with all pleasing and delightful things, of trees, apples, flowers, vivid running waters, song of birds and in effect, all the amenities dreamed of by the heart of man...

Lorenzo de’ Medici Il Magnifico (1449 – 92)

In the late fifteenth century a new concept of the garden began to emerge in Renaissance Europe. Based on a preoccupation with the classical garden, the way of organising plant material was now governed by a formal, geometric approach, and ornament in the garden was enriched by the re-introduction of a range of forms from antiquity. This heralded the creation of gardens of unmatched splendour. The notion took hold that magnificent gardens could enhance the prestige and status of monarchs and princes, and with this came the first accurate depictions of existing gardens in Western art.

Fantasy and reality were closely linked in the Renaissance garden and Italy was the crucible for the theatrical and awe-inspiring new effects which were eagerly sought after in gardens throughout Europe. Inspiration came from both classical mythology and contemporary Italian literary sources. The extraordinary – water mazes, elaborate topiary or obelisks – appeared in Renaissance art alongside the commonplace – pergolas and knots.

Pleasure Garden with a Maze

Pleasure Garden with a Maze by Lodewijk Toeput ©

Lodewijk Toeput (c. 1550-c. 1605)

Pleasure Garden with a Maze

Attributed to Francesco Colonna (1432-33-c. 1527)

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

British School, 16th century

The Family of Henry VIII

Petrus de Crescentiis (c. 1230–35–c. 1320)

Ruralia Commoda

Franciabigio (Florence 1484-1525)

Portrait of Jacopo Cennini

Isaac Oliver (c. 1565-1617)

A Young Man Seated Under a Tree

Andreas Alciati (1492-1550)


Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger (Antwerp c. 1580 - The Hague? 1649)

Figures on a Terrace

Style of Johannes Stradanus (Bruges 1523-Florence 1605)


Attributed to Giulio Romano (Rome c. 1499-Mantua 1546)

Boys among apple trees

Attributed to Francesco Colonna (1432-33-c. 1527)

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili