Case study of Boboli Gardens: the Living Past

Since the 16th century, the Boboli Gardens have grown behind the Pitti Palace. Along with the plant-life, the area of the gardens has grown immensely. From a small private garden of Lucca Pitti in the early 1500s to the 111 acre, open-air museum it is today.

To give a brief history, the ownership of the Pitti Palace has changed throughout the centuries and therefore the gardens have too.

A list of the past owners:

  • Lucca Pitti: 1458- about 1548
  • Medici family: 1549- 1700s
  • Lorraine family: 1700s-1800s
  • King Victor Emanuel III: 1919 donated gardens to Italian people

The plans were first laid out for Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wife, Eleonora di Toledo, in 1549 by the famous architect and sculptor Tribolo. However, Tribolo died in 1550 before he could transform the hillside behind the palace into an organized, elaborate, formal greenspace. Quite a few architects and designers stepped in to respect the original designs of symmetry and formality proposed by Tribolo to create the gardens that would become an inspiration and model for European formal gardens in the 16th century.

A list of artists who worked on the gardens:

  • Davide Fortini
  • Giorgio Vasari
  • Bartolomeo Ammannati
  • Bernardo Buontalenti

The gardens also hosted many sculptures by artists such as Michelangelo. At the time the Medici’s built the expansive gardens, they intended it to be for their immediate family. After many years, the gardens became public and the sculptures that were both commissioned specifically for the garden or collected from elsewhere were now open to the people of Florence. Today tourists and locals alike come to admire the natural beauty that is transformed into archways, mazes, and walls peppered with various sculptures.

Today the wanderers of the gardens have a different relation to the pieces within the garden. Once, these artworks made of marble and various stones were the private collection of the Medici, prized and admired. Now people pay to admire them. However, many abuse this privilege. Due to accounts of vandalism and deterioration from nature, many of the statues are copies of the original. When art is in the open as it is in piazzas or open-air museums such as these gardens, people have the ability to get close and even touch these ancient monuments. Though the Boboli gardens have had few incidents of large-scale vandalism, they still replace many of the statues with replicas due to the harm nature does to it and the movement to famous museums.

Among the ancient statues is one contemporary piece by Igor Mitoraj. His piece, Tyndareus Cracked, was part of an exhibition in 1998 that was later kept in the gardens. This modern piece is a representation the deterioration that happens to ancient pieces over time. Mitoraj was known for creating only fragments of bodies which also resembles the scavenged remains of ancient works. He couples his imitation of the past with a contemporary meaning, which can be seen as an example of the ways changing culture has effects on art.IMG_0058

These aged art pieces still standing today scattered among a 16th century designed garden still growing today attract those still living today. However, most of these things are not the originals. In living, natural, or open-air museums, people come to see the ideas or designs of the past that are aging and deteriorating every day. Due to ever-changing cultural circumstances the world’s displays of what may seem to be fixed history must change also.


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