The Landscape Guide

* Mannerist Style 1660 

See Style Chart

Use: When renaissance art was thought to have reached a peak of perfection, designers and their clients became attracted by surprise, novelty and alusion. Gardens were furnished with dramatic features and used for outdoor masques and parties. Virtuoso water displays were admired and the creation of garden features to impress one’s friends became an objective. Montaigne visited Pratolino in 1580 and thought the Duke of Florence had ‘expressly selected an inconvenient site, sterile and rugged, and utterly without water, merely that he might have the pleasure of bringing the water from five miles off’. Yet he was amazed to see ‘various musical instruments, which perform a variety of pieces, by the agency of the water; which also, by a hidden machinery, gives motion to several statues, single and in groups, opens doors, and gives apparent animation to the figures of various animals, that seem to jump into the water, to drink, to swim about, and so on.’

Form: Movement and drama became important in mannerist gardens, as they did in mannerist painting and sculpture. Compared with their predecesors, gardens were less calm and more given to theatrical display. Hydraulic marvels and elaborate water features, often based on sreams flowing through the garden, were charcteristic features of mannerist gardens. It was as though garden designers had taken heed of Leonardo’s remark that ‘It is a wretched pupil who does not surpass his master’. Dramatic sites were chosen and embellished with exotic sculpture. There was an interest in scholarship and, with Palladio, a Neoplatonic concern for circles and squares.

Farnese Gardens, Palazzo del Te, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Villa Campi, Vizcaya,