Listen to part of a lecture in an art history class.
Professor: OK. We have been talking about the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, from around A.D. 1400 to around A.D. 1600.
Last class, we had a look at some of the magnificent palaces and villas built during this time period.
And just as class was ending, someone asked about the gardens associated with these palaces and villas.
And so I'd like to say a few things about them before we move on.
Now, when I say gardens, I don't mean vegetable gardens or simple flower gardens.
These were lavishly constructed, finely detailed gardens that covered hundreds of acres, with exotic plants and ornamental statues.
And they were just as much a symbol of their owners' social position as their palaces and villas were.
Again, what was the inspiration for the Renaissance? Rebecca.
Student: Classical art and architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Professor: That's right.
As we've said before, the main point of the Renaissance was to revive the genius of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which is why designers of Renaissance gardens designed them as the ancient Romans would have designed them, or at least as they imagined the ancient Romans would have designed them.
Student: How did they know what ancient Roman gardens look like?
Professor: Well, they didn't have any pictures.
But they did have some very detailed descriptions of ancient Roman villas and their gardens that had been written by famous Roman authors who lived during the height of the Roman Empire.
And at least three of those authors, one was a scholar, one was a poet, and one was lawyer, were very authoritative, very reliable sources.
Ah...and interestingly enough, there was another source that didn't describe classical gardens but still became a great influence on Renaissance gardens.
It was also written back during the height of the Roman Empire by a mathematician known as Hero of Alexandria.
Hero was a Greek. But he lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which was at the time part of the Roman Empire.
Hero compiled descriptions and sketches of seventy some clever little mechanical devices, most of which utilized compressed air to cause water, or in some cases wine, to flow from one place to another, or sometimes to squirt or to make some kind of noise. Yes? John?
Student: Could you give an example?
Professor: Well, one of the devices was a sacrificial vessel that was obviously designed for a temple, not for a garden.
Anyway, if you drop money into this vessel, water would flow out of it.
Well, creative minds in the Renaissance realized that this little device could be nicely repurposed as a nifty little fountain.
Designers of Renaissance gardens loved this sort of thing.
They loved to incorporate novelties and tricks, things to amuse and impress guests.