Giovanni Battista Falda (Italian, ca. 16401678)
Published by Giovanni Giacomo de' Rossi (Italian, 16271691)
Etching; 9 3/16 x 16 11/16 in. (23.3 x 42.4 cm) (plate)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1961 (61.532.26.20)
The Villa Doria Pamphilj, with a circumference of close to six miles, is a prime example of the expansive villa garden-parks of Baroque Italy surrounded by woods and meadows of the Roman campagna. Commissioned by Innocent X Pamphilj and built by Alessandro Algardi (15981654) from 1644 onward, the pleasure house in the new gardens known as the Casino had a richly sculpted facade and belvedere. As this print by Falda shows, the Casino was decorated by a set of elaborate terraces containing boxwood parterres and hundreds of pots of orange or olive trees on its surrounding balustrades. The Pamphilj family belonged to a circle of wealthy patrons, including the Borghese, Ludovisi, and Barberini, who commissioned architects (Bernini), landscape painters (Claude Lorrain), as well as botanists (Giovanni Battista Ferrari) and garden dilettantes to build and decorate their villas and gardens. The vast expanse of such a garden park with randomly placed fountains and theaters made upkeep expensive and difficult, and in the second half of the seventeenth century, the first signs of decay could be observed. Ironically, it was in this slightly dilapidated state, expressing the quality of picturesqueness which was so appealing to Northern Europeans, that these gardens became especially admired.