Promoted by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and the Regional Institute for Venetian Villas with the support of the Fondazione Giuseppe Roi, this book illustrates one of the most interesting, richest but little studied chapters in Veneto art: garden sculptures.
The book consists of a dense introductory essay plus descriptions of around one hundred sets of statues. The almost mandatory starting point for a survey of this kind is the Vicenza
area, since the golden age of the Venetian villa principally unfolded here. Moreover, the vast majority of the statues were made using stone from the local limestone quarries. Lastly, some of the most important Italian sculptors, such as the Albanese and especially the Marinali, were continuously active in this area.
Together with other artists, including some lesser known ones brought to light by recent research, these sculptors gave rise to a “gallery” that is quite extraordinary in terms of quantity and aesthetic standards. Garden statues played a far from secondary role in country residences since they were deemed a necessary complement to the artful manipulation of nature in providing enjoyment for the country gentleman. The statues made crucial contributions to defining the unmistakable spatial organisation of the Venetian villa, which combines functional logic and high aesthetic standards. In this context the statues are like “semiophores”, still capable of entertaining the perceptive viewer in a intense, fruitful dialogue. Through their
remarkable wealth of formal elements and subjects – on a par with the frescoes decorating the villa interiors – they offer highly diverse meanings conveying the patrons’ desire to parade their privilege and rank, events in their lives or cultural interests. They may thus embody nostalgia for a lost Eden, outside of time, or the particular ideology of the moment. This unique heritage, unfortunately increasingly damaged by the ravages of time, if not by culpable human neglect, has been the subject of a long-term research project conducted by the Regional Institute, aimed at creating a complete catalogue of the sculptural works: i.e. the “Atlas of Veneto Garden Statues”, which can be viewed on the websites of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and the Regional Institute for Venetian Villas.