The History of Gardens in Painting by Niles ButtnerThe History of Gardens in Painting by Niles Buttner

The History of Gardens in Painting

byNiles ButtnerTranslated byRussell Stockman

Hardcover | September 23, 2008

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An original, splendidly illustrated history of gardens as seen through the eyes of painters by the highly acclaimed author of Landscape Painting: A History.

The creation of gardens was among the first achievements of early civilizations, and garden design was already highly developed in antiquity. Pictures of gardens are a reflection of the social, historical, and aesthetic context in which gardens were conceived. The focus of this captivating book is not the gardens themselves or the different concepts of the garden, but rather the representation of gardens in paintings. The author examines why artists paint gardens by covering the varied and lively 2,000-year history of the garden picture using 180 garden masterpieces as examples.

The text begins with a look at ancient Rome, when paintings of gardens, as found in villas in Pompeii, were already valued as works of art. The wide-ranging coverage also includes pictures of charming medieval gardens in books of hours; Botticelli’s masterwork La Primavera, set in a grove of orange trees; views of well-known historic gardens, such as those at Versailles; painter’s gardens, as for example, Monet’s Giverny; and modern gardens depicted by Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney, among others. For collectors of art history books and garden books, this lovely volume should appeal to a broad audience.
Nils Büttner is a professor of art history at Dortmund University. He is the author of Landscape Painting: A History, The Invention of the Landscape, and the co-author of Jacob van Ruisdael in Bentheim and Peter Paul Rubens: Baroque Passions, among other titles. He has also written numerous catalog essays and has served as a curator f...
Title:The History of Gardens in PaintingFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 12.2 × 11.1 × 1 inPublished:September 23, 2008Publisher:Abbeville Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0789209934

ISBN - 13:9780789209931

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Read from the Book

Excerpt from: The History of Gardens in PaintingCourt and Domestic Gardens and the Garden of LoveSince antiquity, paintings of gardens employing stylized symbols had served as indications of power and dominion. Among the few surviving examples from the Middle Ages are those executed in the palaces built by the Normans after their conquest of Sicily, occupied by the Arabs until 1061. A first brief description of Palermo’s so-called Palazzo Reale, the newly constructed palace of King Roger, dates from 1154. It includes references to “pictures of every kind” and elaborate wall decorations with “splendid pictures” (plate 7). The ruler’s palace was meant to seem like a Garden of Eden built of stone. This intent is clearly expressed in an Arabic inscription in the Zisa, one of the smaller of Palermo’s Norman palaces. Executed in decorative Naskhi script, it reads: “In this exquisite palace you find the greatest king of the century…here we have glimpses of the earthly paradise.” The widespread Arab notion that a ruler should reside in an earthly paradise was upheld in Byzantium as well. Norman Sicily functioned as a cultural melting pot, a place where ideas from the Roman East and the Arab world were blended before being disseminated through the whole of Europe. The image of the garden became a symbol of peaceful dominion that was readily understood and universally shared.Anyone who pretended to the values of courtly society and wished to demonstrate his exalted social standing had his house decorated with painted gardens. In the patrician palaces of Florence, for example, garden paintings were commissioned as status symbols. Most of these wall decorations have been lost, but fortunately one of the city’s medieval palaces still preserves such paintings from the late fourteenth century. It was originally built for the Davizzi family; then in 1578 it came into the possession of the merchant and scholar Bernardo Davanzati, whose name it bears to this day. In one of the opulent rooms on the third door of the Palazzo Davanzati (plate 8), the lower walls still present illusionistic paintings of tapestries. Above these is a painted arcade, beneath which pairs of courtly lovers are pictured in a garden.In ancient Rome gardens were consecrated to Venus, the goddess of love, and even after the decline of the ancient world the idea persisted that gardens were especially conducive to lovemaking. The idea took on new vigor in the fifteenth century, especially after the rediscovery of Lucretius’s De rerum natura, which begins with a eulogy to the supremacy of Venus (1.6f.). In anticipation of marriage it was not uncommon to have the new couple’s bedchamber decorated with paintings portraying heroic deeds, exemplary virtues, or wedding rituals and aspects of conjugal bliss set in gardens and landscapes.The garden pictures in the Palazzo Davanzati were presumably commissioned for just such an occasion. They were meant to be both decorative and ostentatious, a clear indication of the owner’s prestige. And following the tradition of wall decoration in antiquity, they served to bring the abundant greenery of the garden indoors for year-round enjoyment. As it happens, they also narrate the tragic love story from the Chatelaine de Vergi, a verse epic in which a noble lady employs her dog in the exchange of messages with a knight at the Burgundian court, then along with her lover is driven to suicide by court intrigues. Like the tales from Boccaccio’s Decameron—whose framing action happens to be set in a garden—the Chatelaine de Vergi, written toward the end of the thirteenth century, was among the literary subjects repeatedly illustrated in wall paintings. Such tales were widely disseminated, as familiar to the illiterate as to scholars. One might hear recitations of them, hear them read aloud from manuscripts—many of them richly illustrated—learn of them through pictures of all kinds, hear them retold in sermons, or see them performed in religious or secular plays and pageants. Perhaps the most popular of the era’s courtly verse epics was the Roman de la rose (plate 9), and it is certain that its legions of admirers did not gain their knowledge of it through solitary reading. The poem, whose allegorical figures embody the ideals of courtly love, was begun by Guillaume de Lorris before the middle of the thirteenth century and completed by the cleric Jean de Meung, presumably between 1268 and 1285. It takes the form of an extended dream vision in which the narrator goes in quest of the rose, the symbol of his love. A testimony to the wide dissemination and great popularity of this material is the richly illuminated manuscript produced around 1500 for Engelbrecht II, count of Nassau-Vianden, a knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece and governor of Burgundian holdings in the Netherlands. The text faithfully conforms to a printed edition of the work, and the sumptuous illustrations were executed separately in a Bruges workshop. One of these shows the lovers, dressed in red and blue, arriving the exquisite garden of Deduit, the very embodiment of pleasure. They have been led there with the aid of Oiseuse, the personification of leisure. Nothing that conflicts with the ethic of courtly love is admired into the garden; wickedness, hate, greed, envy, and miserliness are banished from it as surely as are old age and poverty.The garden of love motif is also found on tapestries—the showiest pictorial medium of the time—commissioned by the Burgundian court. There the theme of love could have political overtones as well. Visions of the peaceful reign of Venus suggested the return of a realm of lasting peace like the one prophesied for the progeny of Venus’s son Aeneas after he had fled from Troy. The founding of Rome was given this plausible mythical explanation by Virgil in his Aeneid, which was written to legitimize the rule of Emperor Augustus and would become a core European text for many centuries to come. As the progenitor of the imperium romanum, Aeneas was considered to be the mythical forefather of emperors, kings, and popes, who saw themselves legitimized by the pagan myth and avidly propagated it.Tending to gardens was by now and would long continue to be a favorite activity at European courts. Gardening had been held to be an appropriate form of physical exercise even for members of the upper classes since antiquity. With the rediscovery of much ancient literature, the idea that gardens were the ideal settings for philosophical speculation fused with the monastic tradition of gardening as a form of contemplation to create the new, idealized, secular garden celebrated by the humanists. Petrarch, for example, praises the gardens and surrounding forests of the Vaucluse in his Vita solitaria as ideal spots for self-reflection. On his “rambles through the landscapes of the soul,” Petrarch enjoyed the imaginary companionship of Augustine, Seneca, Cicero, and Quintilian. His descriptions of gardening and country life are studded with literary allusions, and were greatly influenced by the ideals of ancient aristocrats as rejected in the classics. He recommends moderate exertion in the garden or in hunting as an ideal complement to hours of philosophical discourse and solitary study.Other indications of the increasing idealization of country life are the many treatises on gardening from this period, some of them elaborately illustrated. All of them point out the health benefits of such activity in addition to the nourishment it provides. Examples are the Tacuinum sanitatis, translated from the Arabic, and the Ruralia commoda (plate 10) by Piero de’ Crescenzi of Bologna. The latter, an agricultural handbook composed in Latin between 1304 and 1309, was an instant success, and was translated into any number of European languages. The translation commissioned by Charles V of France in 1373 was widely disseminated, both in lavishly illuminated manuscripts commissioned by wealthy patrons, and later in a printed edition from 1486. The arrival of comparatively inexpensive printed books meant that instructional texts like these became available to an increasingly broad public, but they failed to satisfy an aristocratic desire for more luxurious copies as evidence of status and wealth. It would be a mistake to dismiss such a demand for exquisitely illustrated and ornamented books as being reactionary, however, for the illuminations in certain manuscripts are among the most progressive and accomplished examples of pictorial art produced in the late Middle Ages. Along with tapestries and the works of goldsmiths, book illustrations were the most important pictorial medium before the gradual rise to prominence of relatively inexpensive panel painting. And the need to surround oneself with luxury articles of all kinds as part of the aristocratic lifestyle, later handily formulated as noblesse oblige, was unquestionably the most important stimulus to artistic production and aesthetic innovation for centuries.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents from: The History of Gardens in Painting

The Realm of Venus
Medieval Images of the World and of Gardens
Court and Domestic Gardens and the Garden of Love
Visions of Paradise
The Enclosed Garden
Pictorial Rhetoric
Precedents and Symbols
New Views — Ancient Ideals
Old Themes — New Ideals
Between Sense and Sensuality
The Gardens of the Impressionists
Harmony Parallel to Nature
Impression and Expression
Continuation and Forecast
Selected Bibliography

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The History of Gardens in Painting— A Booklist Top 10 Arts Book of 2009"Büttner presents uncommon reproductions and sustains authoritative and engrossing commentary in an exquisite and illuminating book for art and garden lovers." — Booklist, STARRED REVIEW"Büttner’s text strikes at the heart of the human fascination with green oases and how the philosophy underpinning that fascination has changed in tandem with Western civilization’s evolving relationship with the earth&hellip:The History of Gardens in Painting remains a valuable compendium of how artists have lost themselves in gardens over time in the never-ending pursuit of paradise. — Art Blog by Bob"Nils Büttner has produced a masterful survey of the depiction of sculptured landscapes in Western painting. One especially noteworthy feature of this wonderfully illustrated book is that the author brings this history up to the present. Yes, there is life after Impressionism."—"…Büttner (art history, Dortmund Univ., Germany) brings to this analysis the same skills apparent in his earlier works (e.g., Landscape Painting: A History)… The 180 color illustrations and comments upon them add an extra dimension to this tour through two millennia of gardens in art. A fine addition to art libraries and large academic and public collections. — Paula Frosch, Library Journal