Lecture 1: What is the Baroque? Style and Breaking the Rules, Performance and Power, Engaging the Senses, and Reaching to Heaven “Baroque” (derived from the mid-sixteenth-century Portuguese term describing an impure pearl, conflated with “bizarre” in the eighteenth century, and only applied to architecture after 1788) is a problematic label, especially when describing gardens. Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) consolidated its use as an architectural-history label in Renaissance und Barock (1888). It can be accepted broadly, however, as an umbrella label covering a complex stage in post-Renaissance design in the period 1620 to 1800. A circulation of ideas and objects and their transmission through designers or artisans who worked outside national boundaries in an international style is key.
Performance is also critical to an understanding of the Baroque as a “rhetorical style” that engaged the senses and fused the arts. Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was sculptor and dramatist as well as architect. His work, and that of Francesco Borromini (1599-1667), while respecting the fundamental language of classicism, turned it (by breaking the rules) into an expressive form of architecture with sculpturally modeled façades and contorted sweeps and contrasts of light and shade (elements that also show up in the decorative arts of the period). In the light of this, the question of the “French Baroque” or the “English Baroque” requires further qualifying, notably in the realm of garden design. The counterpoint between the work of André Le Nôtre and Jules Hardouin-Mansart at Versailles offers an instructive case study (Lecture 2).
Engaging the Senses is another key to the Baroque. By this, Michael Snodin means the manipulation of viewing, synthesizing art forms, and using the human figure to communicate emotion and meaning. Deploying the allied arts of music, theater and opera (and choreographing the fête in a garden), the designer and client could convey power and ascendancy through affective design. Reaching to heaven is used by Snodin to cover the development of perspectives of ascent in paintings, painted ceilings, and architectural interiors, which complement the bird’s-eye viewing of gardens, landscapes, and townscapes in the Baroque.
It is instructive to look at religious imagery in the period in relationship to marvelous materials. The cabinet of curiosities, containing natural history specimens and works of art, could allow for contemplation of worldly pleasures and indulging the senses, while also serving devotional practice. Collecting, intimacy, and reception are yoked by the idea of the “cabinet” or “closet” as a room rather than as piece of furniture. That spatial-social ideal is translated into garden design in the form of the “salle” or “cabinet” as green architecture within the wooded zone known as the bosquet.
The interior and outdoor spaces were also linked by collecting, whether of animals and birds in a menagerie or of flowers and rare plants, as at the Trianon of Versailles. The garden could be the place where the natural sciences were studied, notably in the early physic or medicinal gardens that had the patronage of the elite. “Theater” in the sense of the world in microcosm (from the “cabinet of curiosities” to the teatrini in wax to the hortus siccus of dried specimens, etc.) fuses thus with “theater” in the sense of affective performance. Crossing the boundary from the palace or garden into urban space, “theater” also meant the use of squares as centers of performance -- as in the inauguration of the equestrian statue of Louis XIV in the Place Louis-le-Grand in 1700 or the “Proclamation of the Peace of Münster” in the Grote Markt in Antwerp in 1648. Arguments on the generation of urban form from the landscape practices at the time of André Le Nôtre have been put forward by Thierry Mariage (featured in Lecture 2), but design elements such as the patte d’oie (three radiating allées inspired by the scenic devices of the Renaissance theater and by papal Rome) were commonalities of spatial construction visualized from above – whether the fanning avenues in the garden of Versailles or the streetscapes of the town of Versailles.
Lecture 2: André Le Nôtre and Versailles: Diplomatic Receptions and Reception History, Hydraulics and Site Management, the Context of Institutions, Arts, Sciences and Techniques
Michael Conan has discussed “baroque garden cultures” in terms of “European diversity,” which was derived from “the circulation of people, objects, plants, and ideas.” Such networks gave rise to local and historical differentiations, which are complex and not always easily accommodated within an over-arching label “the Baroque.” Hence it is appropriate to speak of “baroque garden cultures,” including those around Prince Eugene of Savoy in and outside Vienna in the early eighteenth century (notably at Schloßhof), which took inspiration from the dominant work of André Le Nôtre (1613-1700) for Louis XIV (1638-1715) at Versailles. Conan -- and Thierry Mariage from a different perspective -- has thus challenged the notion of “national style.” While studies of Versailles that focus on the particularities of the site continue to proliferate (most recently Robert W. Berger and Thomas F. Hedin’s 2008 book), others have contextualized the site, its designers, and their collaborative workshops. Mariage situates Le Nôtre’s work at the culmination of long and intricate traditions of land management, whereas Georges Farhat and his colleagues look at the contexts of institutional history, the history of science and philosophy, technological change and the world of the arts generally. They give greater attention to plurality than one unified vision.
Berger and Hedin: In Diplomatic Tours in the Gardens of Versailles under Louis XIV, Berger and Hedin argue convincingly that much of the layout at Versailles was determined by water. What began as a small hunting lodge – Louis XIII’s 1624 building surrounded by forest – was rebuilt as a modest brick-and-stone château (1631-34), which the young Louis XIV knew from his first visit (1651). When he took full control of power after the Regency in 1661, he soon set about expansion. Le Nôtre’s transformations of 1663-66 made the north axis stronger and better integrated with the rest of the garden, reflecting the location of water on that side: the Étang de Clagny. The authors reveal Louis XIV lionized as the sole creator as well as cicerone or guide to the site; hence the importance of how the visitor was toured around the garden. The first diplomatic tours of 1664 to 1673 shifted attention away from the south (Orangery and Menagerie) to the northern gardens, where five out of a total of nine pipes led water to the new fountains of parterre, allée and bosquet. The Grotto of Thetis had a reservoir above it, part of the sequence of reservoirs connected to the Étang, the springs, the windmills and pump-tower to the north. By 1672 the addition of new bosquets had outpaced the capacity of the hydraulic system, and so an elaborate scheme of boys with whistles was used to choreograph the sequence for the King’s amusement. The Northern Zone held sway through the 1670s/80s and early guidebooks followed the lead. The creation of the King’s official document “Manière de Montrer les Jardins de Versailles” (1689-1705) built on these earlier tours, but after 1683, with the rise of Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708), the garden evolved in a different direction, stylistically as well as in terms of circulation. The contrasts between the early and late Versailles are significant distinctions.
Mariage: In The World of André Le Nôtre, Mariage discusses the establishment of the classical garden around 1600, referring to a “proto-business ethic of patrimonial management.” With the shift away from defensive architecture came an extension out into the landscape, which coincided with the great projects of Henry IV: canal building, mulberry cultivation, forest management, etc. The environs of Paris saw the rise of new houses and gardens like Courances built up by land purchases from 1622 onwards. The same period witnessed the rise of the professional royal gardeners including Le Nôtre’s father, from whom André inherited the title of “Jardinier Ordinaire” of the Tuileries. The workshops of painters, sculptors, printmakers and instrument-makers allowed a gardener trained in geometry, surveying, astronomy and cartography to diversify skills within the burgeoning profession. Garden theory – notably Boyceau’s Traité du jardinage of 1636 – was codified for the first time. Out of this new reality, the gardens around Paris were created with attention to orientation, relief, hydrology, etc. Thus, when Le Nôtre took on his first major work at Vaux-le-Vicomte, he exploited the site following traditional practices. But the innovation was in erasing an existing habitat with a more territorial outlook. Versailles was the next step, leading to a regional-scale planning, in which maps and statistics played a role in national policy. Forests were zoned and densities and heights were prescribed in a way that anticipates urban zoning in the following centuries.
Lecture 3:Science and Collecting in the Baroque: Flowers and Power, the Visual Culture of Natural History, and the Origins of the Garden as Theater, Museum, and Gallery Louis XIV had a sequence of mistresses and one of them – the marquise de Montespan – was immortalized in her celebrated representation as a collected object among flowers and artifacts in a cabinet in the Trianon de Porcelaine at Versailles (c. 1670). The Clytie myth, taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, offered another image of womanhood: a nymph transformed into a sunflower subserviently following the course of Apollo (symbolizing the Sun King) from dawn to dusk. Greek and Roman mythology also gave rise, however, to Flora and Aurora, who had control over dawn, spring and the flowering seasons. In the Baroque, an ambivalent view of female power led to discourses in the contested terrain of nature and art in nature.
Women had traditionally ruled household matters, including the care of “husbandry,” food, and herbal medicines. The female bouquetières of the seventeenth century revived the medieval guild, formalizing apprenticeship leading up to the creation of a “chef-d’oeuvre.” A bouquet, however, was regarded as potentially disempowering – a temptation to men when worn to ornament the décolletage. An anatomical relationship between women and flowers was visualized as part of a wider paradoxical viewpoint constructed by men: like classical Flora, women were chaste, fecund, or promiscuous, weak, yet Amazons. With the bar under the Salic Law of women serving as monarch, and with the recent experience of turmoil under the Regencies of Marie de Medici and Anne of Austria, the reign of Louis XIV witnessed the propagation of an idea that even the traditional power of women in horticulture should be co-opted or controlled by men. As Elizabeth Hyde has argued, Louis XIV’s mastery of the realm of the flowers that bloomed at Versailles, benefitting from the “mercantile capitalism” of Colbert and the work of the “curious florists,” had value as propaganda in seducing citizens at large as well as his mistresses at court.
In the increasingly fluid social structures of seventeenth-century France, fashion in horticulture had been first generated outside court by collectors of mixed rank. Some formed part of what Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi describes as the “republic” of scientists (République des Gens de Sciences) that flourished throughout Western Europe. Exchange of knowledge via letters and of plants and seeds in boxes fostered the transmission of ideas that enthused the networks of the Baroque. Botanical and zoological painting had established itself as a genre by 1600, and from Jacopo Ligozzi and Daniel Froeschl to Bartolomeo Bimbi at the court of the Medicis, we find the sunflower depicted scientifically and decoratively – in counterpoint to its symbolic usage at the court of Louis XIV. The botanical garden, first founded in Pisa and Padua in the sixteenth century, then moving to Leiden and Amsterdam by the seventeenth century, represented in the Baroque a teatro del mondo or microcosm of plants, with animate and inanimate collectables of the globe.
Erik de Jong explains how the “theater” as an architectural form (the hemicycle often called an exedra and used for greenhouses with their graduated displays) was fused with notions of “theater” as microcosm. Shells, minerals, dried flowers, animals, and the multifarious productions of art would be housed in a cabinet indoors. Yet they might also form part of the first botanic gardens -- called a hortus medicus or “physic garden,” since founded by physicians and apothecaries at a university or guild for the wellbeing of townsfolk. Terms such as musaeum, theatrum, ambulacrum and arcus or ark were interchangeable in the period. Instead of the systematic collections of the nineteenth-century museum or art gallery, the productions of nature and art were jumbled together, for example stuffed animals being displayed alongside the dried flowers of a hortus siccus (herbarium). The idea of having a space covered to exhibit objects in rain and sun -- a gallery – served mental and physical health, since walking or ambling (hence ambulacrum) brought benefits along with studying. Anatomical theaters and the hothouse as a “theater” of tropical plants extended the range of knowledge in the natural sciences on behalf of medicine.
While the botanic garden and the pleasure garden were controlled by men, a few women artists made inroads in a professional role as illustrators of natural phenomena. Among the most exceptional were Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670) at the court of the Medicis, and Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), daughter of an engraver and stepdaughter of a still-life painter. Garzoni got encouragement from the apothecary Enrico Corvino, whereas Merian, after marriage to a painter, set off on her own with one daughter to the Dutch colony of Surinam in 1699 to study the metamorphosis of tropical insects. Her 1705 publication on the subject stands as among the greatest works of an artist-scientist. Women as collectors or patrons of gardening are known in Italy, but Holland with England produced significant groups by 1700.
Lecture 4: The Rise of the Picturesque. Issues of Environmental Awareness in Early Modern England, and John Evelyn and his Garden and Milieu, 1653-1706
The central question posed in this class is how did the Baroque in England transform itself so rapidly into the Picturesque, which came to embody the “English style” in the period 1730 to 1830? My own work at Painshill Park in Surrey – the creation of Charles Hamilton, 1738-1773 – has helped inform my answer to that question. Hamilton’s picturesque landscape – with its vineyard, shrubberies, and Turkish Tent -- has been undergoing restoration to its original condition for three decades. Painshill Park Trust, a private charitable trust, will host its 30th-anniversary conference this coming June.
A secondary question is how does one go about restoring or reconstructing landscapes that have vanished entirely or whose original plantings and meanings have disappeared or been forgotten? Ada Segre’s reconstruction of form and meaning in Italian Baroque flowers gardens around 1650 is primarily a task on paper (using computer-generated imagery). My own work involves reconstruction on the ground as well as on paper, using watercolor drawings. The following, while representing three different approaches to reconstruction, also help illustrate some steps in the transformation from the Baroque to the Picturesque:
1) The Privy Garden, Hampton Court (to the west of London): William & Mary’s private garden reconstructed in 1995 from archaeological remains to its original condition in 1702-3. 2) Sayes Court, Deptford(east London): John Evelyn’s garden was laid out from 1653 with modifications in 1685, but the site no longer exists and has to be reconstructed through archival research. 3) Belvedere, Vienna and Schloß Hof, near Vienna: Both palaces belonged to Prince Eugene, with the latter altered by Maria Theresia (the only female ruler of the Habsburg territories). The imaginative reconstruction of planting is from pictorial evidence of the 1720s--1760s. Authors cited in The Genius of the Place (John Dixon Hunt and Peter Willis): Sir Henry Wotton (1624), Francis Bacon (1625) and John Evelyn (1657). John Evelyn’s “Elysium Britannicum” – an unpublished manuscript compiled from the late 1650s to the end of the seventeenth century -- is one of the key sources in landscape design and gardening matters. Hunt discusses the idea of “freedom” and the empirical Baconian science of the Royal Society (founded 1660/62). It rejected Cartesian a priori theories or “systems” in favor of “histories” that reflected the specifics of the local case. In gardens, this meant greater respect for the “Genius of the Place” (Genius loci). Freedom accorded to gardens (e.g., trees no longer clipped as topiary) was equated with freedom in a political or constitutional sense. The more flexible handling of the ratio of art to nature promoted a new style, but it was neither entirely free nor pure nature. William and Mary’s Hampton Court as a Counterpoint to Louis XIV’s Versailles:
The reconstruction of the Privy Garden to its original condition around 1702/3 demonstrated the new techniques in archaeological and aboricultural analysis: the precise layout of parterre, plate-bandes (flower borders), and topiary could be established, including the original heights of the yew pyramids. However, complete “authenticity” proved impossible (e.g., the composition of the flower borders is not recorded in archival or archaeological data, and Baroque tulips -- striped and blotched from a virus -- are no longer available). Furthermore, the organic dimension in gardening is inherently unstable – susceptible to alteration, seasonal, and meteorological contingency (e.g., the Great Storm of 26/27 November 1703).
Sayes Court, John Evelyn, and the Unstable Environment of the Little Ice Age:
John Evelyn’s garden at Sayes Court, now vanished, can be reconstructed on paper only. From 1653 to the 1690s his garden was altered and affected by seasonal and climatic contingency (e.g., a storm in 1658 that beached a whale; the winter of 1684 that destroyed his evergreens and killed his tortoise, etc.) The caterpillar and butterfly -- just as much as birds -- represented Evelyn’s dilemma: how to live in harmony with nature. His interest in a diet of fruit and salads, his concern about good food-production, and his book Fumifugium (1661) on air pollution indicate shifting attitudes to the natural world. He anticipates a “modern” outlook first crystallizing around 1800 (e.g., Gilbert White’s Selborne of 1789). As Keith Thomas suggests, the early modern period engendered the split sensibility from which we still suffer today.
Lecture 5: The Coffee House, William Kent, and the Prince and Princess of Wales at Carlton House. The Relationship of Carlton House to Stowe, Chiswick, and Claremont. Sites associated with William Kent (1685-1748): Chiswick House, Claremont, Rousham, and Stowe. In the latter three sites, Kent followed Charles Bridgeman and modified the stiff lines of his predecessor’s layout. In the case of both Claremont and Stowe, John Vanbrugh was involved prior to Kent’s interventions. Vanbrugh’s other important landscape commissions were at Castle Howard and Blenheim. Tom Williamson argues that the stark, simplified geometry of Charles Bridgeman was one direction emerging from Baroque; the ‘dreamscapes’ of William Kent with Italianate imagery constitute the other direction. Important patrons of landscape gardening in the time of Vanbrugh and Kent include Lord Burlington of Chiswick House, the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House, and Lord Cobham of Stowe.
The Role of the Ha-Ha: Horace Walpole, in his first history of ‘modern gardening’ (The History of the Modern Taste in Gardening, written by 1770 and published in 1780), claimed the ha-ha or sunk fence was the ‘capital stroke’ allowing the countryside to be called into the garden. While an early form of ha-ha appears at Stowe by 1719, and shows up at Claremont later, it does not feature prominently at Chiswick House, Rousham or Painshill. It is entirely missing at Carlton House. At Rousham and Painshill, a river or lake served as the boundary instead of a ha-ha.
The Importance of Stowe: John Dixon Hunt describes it as the most visited and influential garden at home and abroad. The associations of Vanbrugh, Bridgeman, and Kent with Stowe were later augmented by the role of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Brown would become the leading professional designer in the picturesque style. Beginning as a gardener at Stowe, he created the ‘Grecian Valley’ in the late 1740s at the upper end of Kent’s ‘Elysian Fields’; thereafter he took on private commissions (e.g., Croome Court early 1750s). Stowe is important as the best example of ‘political gardening’ (Williamson). But many in the circle of the Prince of Wales (in opposition to George II and Robert Walpole) created other forms of political expression (e.g., Chinese motifs) -- individualized and linked to the new ‘consumer society’. ‘Gardens could now be used as media to vent all sorts of highly personalized views of the world, political and otherwise’, writes Tom Williamson.
Urban and Rural Dimensions in the Evolution of the Picturesque: Those that helped develop the English landscape garden on rural estates such as Rousham and Stowe also had close links to the city, especially through the circle of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The coffee house was closely linked to the creation of culture: the production of works of art and their consumption. Through the horticultural products of that coffeehouse culture (books and nurseries), the household of Wales promoted new taste.
Coffee Houses and Clubs and Societies: The Temple Coffee House group (c.1689-c.1706); the Botanical Society (from 1721); and the Society of Gardeners (late 1720s). Publications associated with these groups include John Martyn’s Historia plantarum rariorum, Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas, Robert Furber’s Twelve Months of Flowers, the Society of Gardeners’ Catalogus Plantarum, and the Hortus Elthamenis of James Sherard and J. J. Dillenius. Other important plant collectors include the Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton, Peter Collinson in London, Philip Miller at Chelsea Physic Garden, the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton, and Charles Dubois of Mitcham.
In William Kent’s design for Carlton House, the influences are many: first, Alexander Pope’s villa garden at Twickenham; second, Robert Furber’s ‘Borders of Cut Work’ (1727); and third, Robert Castell’s The Villas of the Ancients Illustrated (1728). The Princess of Wales, as patron and creator of Kew, sustained the influences, to which William Chambers added oriental motifs and Lord Bute gave botanical significance.
Lecture 6: William Kent and the Picturesque – from Emblem to Expression, and from Rousham and Stourhead to Painshill Emblem and Expression:
The classic work on emblems is Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia: or Moral Emblems (new edition 1709). “Emblem” means here an iconographical program, in which emblems -- a generally available public imagery – were encoded in statues and inscriptions, etc., for the visitor to decode. Stowe’s Elysian Fields upholds the emblematic tradition, but with a shift from sculpture to buildings as signifiers. John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) promoted the idea that, as the imagination was built on experience (not “innate ideas”), the individual’s reading became more important than a shared public reading. Thomas Whately’s Observations on Modern Gardening (1770) discusses the shift to “Expression” – meaning the elimination of emblems as “ingenious contrivances” (because “laboured”) in favor of buildings and plantings that work on the imagination like “metaphors, free from the detail of an allegory.”