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.

sculptures Italian gardens ancient statue 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 period.

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.

vases in gardens italy italy garden sculptures

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 Italy.

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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