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The Use of Sculpture in Italian Gardens

Interpreting Italian Garden Style Correctly

The Italian garden presents the garden designer in Italy with many

nuances and various strong symbols that for many people symbolize Italy

and everything Italian. Many garden design themes have been drawn from

the Italian garden style over the years. However, just as many of the

rest of the world’s representations and perceptions of the typical Italian

garden style are correct, many can be overemphasized and can often easily

be overdone when designing an Italian garden.

Above: Examples of pretentious Italian sculpture

I often see the use of elaborate sculpture as a compulsory element

of Italian garden design, especially in the United States, it appears.

There have been certain, glorious periods during Italy’s grand history

that have placed a strong emphasis on the use of sculpture, particularly

the Renaissance period. During the Italian Renaissance, from the 14th

to the 16th century, artists were given great exposure and sculpture

was a fundamental element in garden designs all across Europe in that


Sculptures carved painstakingly from marble, limestone and alabaster

filled the gardens in this period and suited the style, grandeur and

classicism of such early Italian gardens perfectly.

In this modern day, however, such grand pieces of Renaissance sculpture

can only be highlighted and appreciated fully if the context of the

garden in which they find themselves can merit their presence. As a

garden designer living here in Italy I see sculpture being overused

in gardens, which lack the necessary style, all too often. Unless one

has created a formal, classical Italian garden with strong and precise

styling such specific Renaissance sculpture should be used with discretion,

in my opinion.

Above: Subtle examples of peasant sculpture

I personally enjoy the use of a more rustic style of Italian sculpture,

using more natural, less elaborate materials or natural stone; like

terracotta for example. Terracotta, by it’s very name (baked earth)

suggests by far the most harmonious and natural material within the

garden context. Large terracotta vases, amphora and other obtuse shapes

can look stunning in a the kind of informal Italian garden that is now

very popular here in Italy. Natural garden design in Italy now picking

up on the more humble aspects of the period that stretched from the

Renaissance to this day. The farming life that has made the humble peasant

cuisine so popular today has also influenced modern garden design in


Italian garden natural

Above: an example of a natural Italian garden

There is now a strong emphasis upon the roots of the garden culture

and it’s importance as a garden design influence is now a major factor

in this fast and frenetic world in which most of us live. The contact,

awareness and harmony with the land that the Italian peasant farmers

enjoyed is now being recognized by modern ecological trends and the

natural gardening movement across the world. The need to interact more

concisely with natural cycles, the use of organic medicinal plants and

the provision of fresh culinary herbs now calls for a more humble approach

to Italian garden design- sculpture included!

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