Natural artifizio – artifiziosa natura: Grottos of the Early Modern Age in Italy


The architecture of Italian villas in the early modern period is characterized by innovations in type and also in technology, often connected with the use of water in gardens. One of the recurrent genres of villa architecture is that of artificial grottos, the fashion for which began to spread in the early Cinquecento and had its main centres in Florence, Genoa and Rome. The ancient topos of the dialectic between nature and art was revived in these preciously decorated garden buildings.
Precisely due to their combination of natural and artificial materials and the fact that they are semi-open, grottoes are particularly subject to environmental deterioration. Often the conditions that determine their conservation are themselves precarious, or the garden in which they were incorporated has in the meantime been destroyed. So photographic documentation has a special importance, since it fulfils the twofold task of contributing to their conservation and making them accessible at least in virtual form. For the grottos documented here are mainly part of private properties, difficult even for scholars to access.
The online exhibition presents a selection of photographs from our archive, dating for the most part to a photographic campaign conducted in Genoa in collaboration with Stephanie Hanke in 2006. A campaign conducted by the Photo Library in Florence in 2005 should also be mentioned. Digital photography enables us to examine also in detail the richness and preciosity of the materials used in the decoration of grottos, to which the visitor should ideally add also the suggestion of the effects once produced by jeux d’eau.

Costanza Caraffa

© KHI in Florence | 14.08.2020 09:51:51