What Is a Baroque Garden?
A baroque garden is a type of garden that is designed using geometric shapes, usually circles, rectangles, and triangles. It can also be designed with irregular patterns made of swirls and curved lines, so that when the garden is viewed from the top, it can look like a larger-than-life maze or an emblem. Baroque gardens usually require large areas of land that can accommodate their artistic and dramatic landscapes.
The popularity of baroque gardens came about in France from the 15th and 16th centuries, although the concept behind the garden originated from Italy during its Renaissance period, when the fields of science and mathematics experienced much progress. The basic principle behind a baroque garden is hugely attributed to the theories of Renée Descartes, specifically the theory that the infinite space can be divided in finite parts. Symmetry was also an important element in baroque gardens, but this does not limit the design in having elaborate patterns.
Another characteristic of a baroque garden is its tall plant hedges that give the garden its structured design. These hedges could reach the height of an average person’s waist, or even be taller than a person, making guests feel like they are walking through a maze. Enclosed in the hedges could be flower beds, statues, or uniformly-shaped trees that give the garden little bursts of variety in height and shapes. Benches and smaller gazebos can also be contained inside the hedges, to give the garden some functionality as a meeting place or as a private sanctuary. At times, the flowers themselves would be the hedges, giving the garden a colorful outline amongst the green background of the grass.
Typically, designing a baroque garden would begin with a focal point in the middle of the lot, usually emphasized by a small structure like a gazebo, a massive statue, or a wide fountain. Even a man-made waterfall could be erected at the center. From that focal point, the garden would be divided using straight lines, very much like how one slice of pizza is cut into equal parts. These parts would then be designed individually, but should always have cohesion as a whole.
Maintaining a baroque garden can be very demanding, as the hedges, flower beds, and the trees should always have constant pruning to maintain their shape and watering to retain their vibrant colors. Fountains, small ponds, and waterfalls should also be regularly cleaned. Not only is the maintenance of a baroque garden challenging, it can also be very expensive. Acquisition of statues and construction of artificial ponds and waterfalls alone cost a lot of money, not to mention supplying the whole garden with water and hiring several workers to maintain the garden. This is why having baroque gardens during the Baroque period was a symbol of wealth, power, and social status, not to mention sophistication and elegant taste.
This is a matter of opinion, but for me, the ultimate example of the baroque garden style has to be the Versailles gardens located a short drive from Paris, France. These gardens were designed for ruler Louis XIV by a landscape designer named Le Notre.
Because of the enormous size of the Versailles gardens this is a great place to fully appreciate all of the geometrical shapes that define the baroque garden style. These gardens are also filled with fountains and statues; and there are smaller gardens that somehow manage to create a sense of intimacy in such a large space.
The Baroque period in terms of art was in large part characterized by showy displays. If you couldn't awe an audience with your presentation and creation then you might as well not make the attempt, and instead find a less artistic profession. Thus it's easy to understand why the baroque gardens are so elaborate.
This article mentions Renee Descartes and the influence of his theories on the baroque garden style. Science and math in general were gaining esteem during the Baroque period and so was man's interest in nature. The combination of these interests in math, science and nature was the perfect breeding ground for the baroque garden.
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