I drove up to Orvieto to meet a friend from San Quirico half-way, and to pick up nearly 15 kg of fresh chianina. Yum.
On the way home I took a detour into Etruscan hills and went for a walk in a Sacred Wood under leaden skies. The place looked like a moss garden - but populated by strange, giant, marvellous and mysterious allegorical figures.
The garden was commissioned by Vicino Orsino, a nobleman at arms, in the early 16th century. A book by Professor Enrico Guidoni of La Sapienza university in Rome, suggests that Buonarroti was behind the layout, location and choice of themes for the garden and that amongst the executors were such artist/architects as Rafaello da Montelupo, Leone Leoni and his son Pompeo, Simone Mosca and his son Francesco Moschino.
Set against the religious and political tensions of the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent, the garden may be read as an allegory of independent thought, pragmatism and heterodoxy bordering on heresy. Cardinal Reginald Pole, who for a while lived nearby at Viterbo, may have been a source of philosophical inspiration to Vicino Orsino and to his wife Giulia Farnese.
Guidoni suggests that these driving forces may also explain the subsequent decline and abandon of the garden, the misleading dating of the garden's conception and execution by some historians, and some simplistic and obscurantist readings of the garden's content. The garden fell into almost complete decay over 400 years and only in recent times was "tidied up" and restored, though how closely to the original state is not clear.
Hypnerotomachi Poliphilii - Francesco Colonna - translated by Robert Dallington - Published in London in 1592:
Poliphilus, be of good comfort, and pluck vp a good heart, and tell me how thou commest hither, and by what meanes, and how thou diddest escape that mortall and horrible Dragon? and how thou diddest finde away out of that odious and blinde darkenes, I haue beene tould of it: But I maruell me not a little, because few or none dare aduenture that waye. But seeing that grace hath safelye brought thee hither vnto vs, I will not denye thee (any cause notwithstanding) a gratious and fauourable intertaynement
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