Earlier this month, in the fall sunshine, SACI’s Drawing students with sketchbooks in hand visited the expansive Boboli Gardens with instructor John Taylor to sketch and draw the landscape with black pigment en plein air.
The Boboli Gardens, situated behind the Pitti Palace—the main seat of the Medici grand Dukes in Florence, are some of the first formal 16th-century Italian gardens. This particular garden style, as it was developed here, incorporated longer axial developments, wide gravel avenues, a considerable “built” element of stone, lavish additions of statuary and fountains, and extensive detail featured in semi-private and public spaces that were informed by classical accents: grottos, nympheums, garden temples and the like. The openness of the garden, with an expansive view of the city, was unconventional for its time.
The Boboli Gardens were laid out for Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici. The name is an adaptation of “Bogoli,” a family from whom land had been bought to construct the garden. The first stage was scarcely begun by Niccolò Tribolo before he died in 1550, then was continued by Bartolomeo Ammanati, with contributions in planning from Giorgio Vasari, who laid out the grottos sculpted by Bernardo Buontalenti.