Unfortunately Thursday Travesty or Triumph missed yet another week last week due to the unfortunate image incident, but its back this week, with something for you to vote!vote!vote! on. Today's selection is the "Sacro Bosco" (enchanted forest) at Bomarzo (sometimes simply referred to as "Bomarzo", but that's really the name of the town that its in/near). We're backing up a bit here, as the past couple Travestys/Triumphs have been modernist works -- Bomarzo was built by an Italian military captain, Count Orsini, between the date on which he inheirted the property, 1542, and the date on which he died, 1585. Slightly unfortunately, it is now maintained as a bit of a gawdy tourist attraction by its current owner (and advertised as the "Parco dei Mostri", Park of the Monsters), but we also have to thank the current owner for restoration work begun in the 1970s.
The Sacro Bosco is an unusual product of its time -- it is a contemporary of such Italian Renaissance gardens as Villa D'Este and Villa Lante (which I'm sure you can find lots more of by doing a quick google image search). Those gardens are characterized by their careful terracing and steps, use of statuary and water, and most importantly axial symmetry. While the Sacro Bosco features an enormous amount of statuary (which define the meaning of the garden), but it is quite lacking in axial symmetry and is much, much less formal than its contemporaries.
It was intended as an elaborate progression that renders the experience of the garden similar to the experience of a written work, which is rather typical of Renaissance gardens (and some earlier Western gardens); however, since an excellent elaboration of the progression can be found here, I will refrain from providing one. I do suggest that you take the time to quickly browse through that site if you are interested in seeing the progression of the garden, though. For my purposes, it will suffice to describe a couple of the more striking points in the journey:
1. The Hell Mask
"The legend above the Hell Mask, drawn from Dante, reads in translation: 'Cast away every thought, you who enter here.' But instead of embarking upon a terrifying journey into the underworld, Orsini's guests were actually being invited into a banquet pavilion. The huge stone tongue within the Hell Mask served as as table and its eyes as windows." (Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, Landscape Design)
2. Giant tearing Young Man Apart (scene from Orlando Furioso)
This sculpture is typical of the arcane symbolism that infuses the Sacro Bosco -- Orlando Furioso is not exactly a well known story (or at least, I don't think it is), but its provided Orsini the opportunity to commission a striking sculpture. Another along this lines is the elephant sculpture, which portrays one of Hannibal's elephants totting a dead legionnaire. (There are also many more "classical" sculptures of various Greco-Roman deities and significant personnages).
3. The Temple
The garden culminates in a perfect classical temple, which restores order, balance, and symmetry (contrast with the leaning house featured in the picture at top). It is said that the Duke built the entire garden in response to the death of his beloved wife; it is certain that the final temple is dedicated to her, and that it is meant to indicate the rest the he found with her (leading to the obvious conclusion that the rest of the property indicates the confusion and lack of rest he found without her). At any rate, it is certainly a striking conclusion to the bizzare journey.
Posted by eatingbark at November 17, 2005 1:06 PM