Those who study gardens usually do so from an architectural or historical point of view,looking upon them as examples of “living architecture”and neglecting their semantic aspects.In reality,a garden speaks to the visitor through its various components,which are turn linked to the style in which it express itself.
Whether it is a place of pleasure in which we find peace and serenity,or a setting for festivities and social events,the garden always comprises a certain set of elements.These elements appear consistently throughout the ages but are used differently each time,according to the needs of the day.We always find water,in its countless forms,as well as statues,and a garden always has lanes or paths running through it.Sometimes these elements establish a geometrical structure and conform to artificial structures;sometimes they are given free rein and blend in with the surrounding Landscape.Changes in tastes and aesthetics are thus accompanied by new forms its humbler form as enclosed cloister-an image of Eden,oasis of peace,and refuge from outside dangers-the garden ended up reflecting the concept of man as’the measure of all things’and finally became a mgnificient celebration of the power of the absolute sovereign,a sumptuous stage-set exalting the ruler’s glory and triumph.
With the advent of the Enlightenment,the French Revolution,the Industrial Revolution,and Rousseau’s social contract,the garden became a symbol of the new liberal political system.It broke free of the artifice in which it had been bound and became part of nature itsel,free to express itself in full.With a continual conversation between geometrical artifice and the “picturesque”natural element,the art of gardens evolved in a variety of forms,each proper to its own historical era.Yet unlike architecture in bricks and marble,which is less vulnerable to the ravages of time,the garden is a juxtaposition of fragile materials in a state of perennial transformation and is therefore difficult to maintain in its original form.The memory of a garden,however,can be preserved in a poet’s verse,in a writer’s impassioned description,or in a painting or drawing.The subject of this content,then,is the garden as reprsented in painting,and a range of other art mediums,and we will analyze the different levels of interpretation contained in such images.
Often relegated to the background of a painting,the garden has generally played the role of décor to the main scene taking place in the foreground.But in fact green microcosm has a life of its own,made up of symbols and meanings reflecting the tastes and aesthetics of successive centuries.
The aim of this content is to analyze and decipher the constituent elements of the garden itself and the symbolic meanings that underlie them.