Online Exhibition

Natural artifizio - artifiziosa natura

Grottos of the Early Modern Age in Italy

An Online Exhibition by the Photo library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut

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 grottoes, 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 grottoes 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 grottoes, to which the visitor should ideally add also the suggestion of the effects once produced by jeux d'eau.

Die online-Ausstellung zeigt eine Auswahl an Fotografien aus unserem Archiv, die zum größten Teil während einer Fotokampagne entstanden, welche 2006 in Zusammenarbeit mit Stephanie Hanke in Genua durchgeführt wurde. Des Weiteren ist eine Kampagne zu erwähnen, welche die Photothek 2005 in Florenz durchgeführt hat. Die digitale Photographie ermöglicht es, im Detail den Reichtum und die Kostbarkeit der Materialien zu betrachten, wobei der Besucher nicht versäumen sollte, die Wirkung, welche einst die Wasserspiele in den Grotten hervorriefen, hinzuzudenken.

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