Italian Gardens : Romantic Splendor in the Edwardian Age

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-07-07
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
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To many of us, the great gardens of Italy seem like paradise on earth. But how much do we know of their history, and the people who created them? In this ravishing book, illustrated with contemporary paintings, drawings and prints as well as photographs of the gardens today, Helena Attlee tells their story. She starts with Petrarch - still looking to medieval chronicles for advice on how and when to plant - and goes on to the Renaissance and those first gardens to emerge from architects' plans. Then she describes the great gardens of the Medici; the first botanic gardens; the weird Mannerist gardens and their grottoes followed by the Baroque splendour of Isola Bella and the Villa Aldobrandini; the Neoclassical and Picturesque gardens of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and how, in the twentieth century, expatriates with money to lavish on their villas and gardens brought new delights.

Author Biography

Helena Attlee is a journalist who has written about gardens and garden history for over twenty years. Her work has appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines, and she regularly leads garden tours throughout Western Europe. She is also the author of The Gardens of Portugal and The Most Beautiful Country Towns of Provence.

Charles Latham, staff photographer for England's Country Life magazine, was widely acknowledged as one of the twentieth century's preeminent architectural and landscape photographers.


From: Introduction
Helena Attlee

VICTORIA STATION, LONDON, spring 1903. A short, stocky man with a red beard stands on the platform beside a pile of trunks. The first of them is marked with his name - Charles Latham Esq - and covered in a collage of labels that map out the course of the long journey ahead of him: London to Dover on the boat train, Dover to Calais by ferry, Calais to Paris, and then a change of train for the twenty-four hour journey to Turin. In Turin he will change trains once again before the final leg of his journey - another sixteen hours to Rome, via Genoa and Pisa. The second-class ticket for this long and complicated journey cost him £6. 16s. 3d.

Another trunk in the pile bears the name of Mr T. Dollinger, who will be Charles Latham's guide and interpreter in Italy. At this moment Mr Dollinger appears through clouds of steam that billow across the platform, a bowler hat on his head and a porter at his side. The train is due to depart in a few minutes and the porter is anxious to load the gentlemen's luggage. He is about to swing the final trunk up into the guard's van whenMr Latham stops him. Speaking abruptly in a broad, south London accent he points out the labels distributed evenly all over it, their red lettering spelling out the word 'fragile'. Mr Latham has every reason to be cautious. The trunk contains the tools of his trade: a large-format camera, folded down for travelling, several heavy boxes of fragile, glass-plate negatives, plate holders, a tripod and a selection of lenses. Exposure meters had been invented by this time, but Latham was of a generation that had no use for them. Long experience had taught him to estimate his exposures, using one set of calculations for sunny weather, and another for sun and cloud. There were no second chances. Glass plates were extremely heavy to carry and expensive to process, and he permitted himself only one shot of each view.

Latham is likely to have consulted a Baedeker before his departure. If so, the journey in the London to Dover boat train may have been the last time he allowed himself to be separated from his trunks, for nobody could ignore the chilling warning issued in it under the heading 'Luggage': 'As several robberies of passengers' luggage have been perpetrated in Italy without detection, it is as well that articles of great value should not be entrusted to the safe-keeping of any trunk or portmanteau, however strong and secure it may seem.'

Good fortune attended Latham and Dollinger, however. They travelled without mishap and arrived in Rome with their trunks intact. It was here that Latham began work on the magnificent collection of photographs that would eventually illustrateThe Gardens of Italy, an elegant, two-volume work, published in 1905 in London by Country Life Books. Many of these beautiful photographs are reproduced once again in this book.

At the time of his Italian adventure Charles Latham had been a freelance photographer of architecture and gardens for almost thirty years, and was widely acknowledged as one of the finest photographers in the country. He worked at the cutting edge of his trade, producing pictures remarkable for their non-invasive style, their beautifully balanced composition and their almost scientific clarity. His career was reaching its apex at about the same time asCountry Life Illustrated, a 'journal for all interested in country life and country pursuits', was launched in London on 8 January 1897.

This new magazine was the brainchild of Edward Hudson, the prosperous owner of Hudson & Kearns, a family business responsible for publishing a rather unsuccessful magazine calledRacing Illustrated.Hudson decided to relaunch the ailing magazine, and joined forces with Sir George Riddell, a solicitor who held shares in another magazine publishing company called George Newnes Limited. The outcome of their collaboration wasCou

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