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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)

Pleasure Garden with a Maze

Pleasure Garden with a Maze by Lodewijk Toeput ©

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.