BMCR 2021.08.33

Antichità in giardino, giardini nell’antichità

, , , Antichità in giardino, giardini nell'antichità. Studi sulla collezione Giusti a Verona e sulla tradizione delle raccolte di antichità in giardino. Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider Editore, 2020. Pp. 184. ISBN 9788876893230. $103.34.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Travelers who make a stop in Verona to see the purported balcony of Shakespeare’s fictional Juliet would be better advised to visit the stupendous Arena, and also the Palazzo Giusti with its remarkable Renaissance garden. Aside from beautiful formal plantings the Palazzo is notable as a site that was intended to, and did, contain a number of genuinely ancient pieces of statuary and inscriptions, as well as imitations of classical objects, produced between the time of the Renaissance and the middle of the eighteenth century. Eventually the artifacts were placed indoors, although some can be seen in situ, and some came from elsewhere in Verona, and from Rovigo and Vicenza. The collection of conference papers reviewed here concentrates on the visual and historical significance of these objects and on what the editors term ruolo delle antichità. nei giardini in età moderna e sulla concezione dei giardini nella cultura classica e nella societa romana in particolare (“the part antiquities played in gardens of the modern age and in the concept of gardens in classical culture, particularly in Roman society,” short preface, no page number; translation mine).

The conference terms itself international, but all the contributing participants (except two from Barcelona) come from Italian universities, and almost exclusively from the Veneto. One misses the presence of archaeologists and historians with other affiliations.[1] However, this conference and the ensuing publication, though very limited in scope, do not lack depth: the individual articles come to terms with their topics as thoroughly as anyone could ask; the bibliographies that follow particular contributions are compendious and useful and mention numerous scholars from areas other than Italy, although understandably Italian ones are most prominent; and there is a summary of each article in English, along with one in the language of the article itself. It should be mentioned, however, that the English summaries are sometimes carelessly written.[2] Yet all in all, this is an admirable publication, likely to please the specialist as well as a less scholarly reader interested in Roman gardens or in antiquities and their preservation. The main deficiency of the collection, as of the conference, is its noticeably parochial character.

The topics covered range widely from Mayer i Olive’s discussion dealing with the political significance of hortus amoenus vs. locus amoenus; to Pujol’s pointing out the slight interest taken in gardens by Roman law and philosophy; to Baratta’s unexpectedly delightful piece about the staff that typically took care of an ancient Roman garden, with several images of plaques commemorating such persons; and to Candeago’s very particular study of the Molin collection from 18th Century Venice, which leads to Buonopane’s highly interesting discussion of epigraphic materials in the Giusti collection. This last, with its net cast as wide as the subject allows, neatly contrasts with Sperti’s paper, which deals in satisfying detail with just one marble capital. In addition, Namer talks about two somewhat mysterious togati figures and Siracusano about a bust and a testa that exemplify the pseudo-antique. Bodon leads the reader to the Paduan collection of the Bassano family; Zorzi, to Venetian imitations of ancient objects. Calvelli’s topic is the methodology of studying the materials under discussion, particularly inscriptions; Paolucci leaves the Veneto to talk about a tantalizing problem that involves sarcophagi in Sesto Fiorentino near Florence and the transition from Baroque gardening in a classically oriented mode to the so-called English landscaping, which is appropriately followed by Sartori’s discussion of the successful combination of English style with the Italian style, so dissimilar to it. Leaving Northern Italy altogether, the last paper, by de Vico Fallani and his collaborators, tells about an ongoing restoration (with significant changes in the process) of a park in Ostia Antica. It is worth mentioning that Mussolini’s role in this undertaking is still a stumbling block to archaeologists and thus is quite prominent in the discussion we find here.[3]

Of these, this reviewer has found most rewarding Mayer i Olive’s discussion of coexistence in Cicero’s mind between the imaginary (or perhaps one might call it “the idealized”) and the real, that is, events in Cicero’s political as well as personal life. A villa and its gardens might, and did, provide reposo, recuerdo y pensamiento in his difficulties; for instance, his stay at a villa (locus amoenus) that had belonged to Scipio Africanus soothed Cicero on his way into exile. Passages from his letters, especially to Atticus, indicate that the great orator’s enjoyment of such ambience was closely tied to thoughts of Greek gardens and their significance for philosophers such as Epicurus. Semantic differences between hortus amoenus and locus amoenus discussed in this article are especially notable considering the limited vocabulary of Latin, something Romans themselves felt compelled to regret; e.g., Lucretius’ apology for patrii sermonis egestas, 1.832. In dealing with a collection about half of whose contributors’ work is oriented toward material remnants of antiquity, this reviewer was particularly attracted to so impressive an attempt at analyzing an issue of cultural history.

Baratta’s article too is valuable in terms of cultural history, though it stands at the opposite pole of the academic spectrum. She regrets the scarcity of pictorial evidence, which makes one almost solely dependent on epigraphy with its laconic mode of expression, while trying to pin down what exactly can be known about the training of a topiarius, his social standing, and the nature of his duties. She carefully distinguishes between this profession and other workers, such as an olitor, a vinitor, or an arborator, all rather narrow specialists. While a topiarius, typically a slave, could become a freedman, the other toilers presumably were bound to their original condition. Such glimpses of certain social factors in ancient Rome connect the reader with a different world and yet part of our common humanity.

Buonopane’s contribution is technical in its reliance on, and interpretation of, a special kind of evidence, fascinating in itself and particularly valuable to an epigrapher. It is an exemplary lesson of how to sort, tabulate, and evaluate inscriptions. Most impressive is this scholar’s discussion of acquisizioni e… da perdite [iscrizioni]. Admirably arranged is a chart of all the pertinent inscriptions with clear indication of the history of their preservation and provenance, as well as how they figure over the centuries in a number of different listings, not only the CIL.

In total contradistinction to Buonopane, Paolucci’s equally fascinating article speculates on a possibility that the antiquities at the Villa Corsi Salviati may have been discovered in loco, unlike others of their kind that were imported to the region of Florence from Pisa. If so, they came to light during a relatively recent transformation of the villa’s gardens, which were originally in Renaissance style, then redone in the 18th Century in the style of the Baroque, which eventually yielded to a change of taste toward English landscaping, and finally were restored to what they had looked like under Baroque influence. Illustrations indicate contrasts between periods and contribute to the pleasure of the reader, who is shown, not just told about, these changes.

Finally, the reviewer would like to point out that she has found what seems to be a careful arrangement of individual articles admirable in itself, and has derived considerable pleasure from reading them in that sequence.

Authors and titles

A. Buonopane, M. Pilutti Namer, L. Sperti, Per un’introduzione
Introduzione di F. Magani, “…Il ramo di cipresso, con alcune pigne verdi…”

Giardini nell’antica Roma
Marc Mayer i Olive, Ciceron en el giardin
Lluis Pons Pujol, Enforques metodologicos en el estudio de los jardines romanos: epigrafia, derecho romano, filosofia
Giulia Baratta, Horti romani i Topiarii

Il collezionismo veneto di antichita: la collezione Giusti del giardino a Verona

Arianna Candeago, Vicende veronesi della collezione Molin
Alfredo Buonopane, “Donec in musei speciem crescerent…”: il Giardino Giusti e le sue iscrizioni
Luigi Sperti, Il capitello figurato della collezione Giusti del Giardino a Verona
Myriam Pilutti Namer, Due togati in veste di Fratres arvales? Marco Aurelio Mattei e Lucio Vero a Palazzo Giusti (Verona)
Luca Siracusano, Un busto per Alessandro Vittoria, una testa per Girolamo Campagna (e altre due sculture moderne in Palazzo Giusti a Verona)

Antichita in giardino: studi di caso
Giulio Bodon, Per la fortuna del giardino di antichita nella prima rinascenza veneta: il caso padovano
Eleonora Zorzi, La persistenza dell’antico a Venezia: I dodici Cesari nel giardino di Palazzo Soranzo-Cappello
Lorenzo Calvelli, Le iscrizioni non veronesi del Museo Maffeiano. Alcune considerazioni di metodo
Fabrizio Paolucci, Archeologia in giardino? A proposito di alcune antichita conservate a Villa Salviati (Sesto Fiorentino)
Antonio Sartori, Ercole Silva, uno snodo giardinesco
Massimo De Vico Fallani, Carlo Pavolini, Marta Pileri, Elizabeth Jane Shepherd, Le sistemazioni a verde di Michele Busiri Bici per Ostia antica: un caso di studio.


[1] Perhaps the most notable example of such was the remarkable W.F. Jashemski, but notable scholars continue her unsurpassed work on Roman gardens; for instance, Linda Farrar and her books on Roman horticulture (Ancient Roman Gardens, Somerset 1998) and more recently, its place within the broader ancient world. (Jashemski, and Farrar too, are appropriately mentioned in the bibliographies that follow some of the papers, and so is Pierre Grimal, whose Les jardins romains continues to be fundamental.)

[2] For example, “analyse” instead of “analysis” and “Lazio” instead of the customary English “Latium,” in the summary of Baratta’s paper, can be easily overlooked; but there are instances of imprecision in meaning, such as “saving from dispersal” as a rendering of sono conservate in the summary of Buonopane’s, where the idea of dispersal is not inherent in the word conservate. Real difficulty arises when, as in the summary of Sperti’s article, a pochi passi da Piazza Erbe is bewilderingly translated as “a short distance from the forum of the Roman city Roman, and the translation omits the important clause due figure strettamente collegate al culto imperiale, which in the Italian refers to Tellus and Ceres and significantly ties their worship to the cult of the emperor. Moreover, only part of the final sentence of the paragraph appears in the translation.

[3] As is true of most Italian books dealing with any subject relating to art, the material presentation of the content is admirable.