The Medici gardens of fifteenth-century Florence: Conceptualization and tradition

Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto, University of Pennsylvania


Trebbio, Cafaggiolo, Careggi and Fiesole are the Medici properties of the early Renaissance that I address in this dissertation. The question that I try to answer involves the nature of these ‘gardens’: were they exemplary models of the Italian garden style? Moreover, was their layout carefully designed by means of those tools used by architects, such as, for example, the drawings and models recommended by Leon Battista Alberti for the design of res aedificatorias? In order to answer these questions I prioritized the reading of archival material concerning the Medici family in which these properties are described for practical purposes. Furthermore, I addressed the primary sources directly related to the making of gardens, from Crescenzi's fourteenth-century Rerum memorandarum libri to Ferrari's sixteenth-century De florum cultura. Also, in order to gain an understanding of the reception of gardens through time I dedicated considerable attention to works of literature and philosophy in which fictional gardens and loci amoeni play a role, such as the writings of Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Ficino. Archival research showed that the early Medici gardens were often called horti and only in few occasions they were addressed as giardini; but no document has surfaced to prove that these places were early examples to the Italian garden style, or that they were designed. It appears that unlike later Medici villas, such as Castello and Boboli, the gardens of the early Renaissance were the result of habit, that is, their layout derived from the application of a traditional know-how of garden making. On the contrary, fictional gardens within works of literature and philosophy required intellectual speculation, for they were meant to embody allegorical and symbolic meanings. Finally, although it is not possible to reconstruct the layout of the early Medici gardens, it is plausible, however, to say that for someone like Cosimo, who still had ties to medieval culture, they represented the possibility of conducting a virtuous life, whereas for his nephew Lorenzo they represented a display of wealth, and a measure of self-indulgence.

Subject Area

Architecture|Landscaping|Art History

Recommended Citation

Fabiani Giannetto, Raffaella, "The Medici gardens of fifteenth-century Florence: Conceptualization and tradition" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125812.