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The Garden in France before André Le Nôtre

Posted By Anatole Tchikine, Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The history of early modern landscape architecture in Europe is generally written from an Italian perspective: it is assumed that the formal geometric layout, the innovative display of water, and the interest in botanical collecting had originated in Italy, mainly in Rome and Florence, from where they spread across the rest of the continent. This prevalent opinion has recently been challenged by Jean Guillaume; but sixteenth-century writers, such as Olivier de Serres, also emphasized the distinct character of French gardens, manifest especially in the arrangement of their parterres. This session seeks to define the place of the French Renaissance garden tradition at the moment of unparalleled cultural innovation, highlighting its unique contribution to landscape design before gaining preeminence with the work of André Le Nôtre. What specific features distinguished sixteenth-century French gardens from their Italian and other European counterparts? What did French naturalists and travelers, such as Pierre Belon, contribute to Renaissance botanical scholarship and the knowledge of nature? Topics might include the discussion of the role of a rhetoric of space—notably in architectural treatises and arts poétiques—in espousing modular design; floral figurations of “devices” and emblems belonging to the Valois and Bourbon monarchies; optical innovations as exemplified by perspectives of shifting sightlines; and the growth of “praedial” writing, from Charles Estienne to Bernard Palissy and Olivier de Serres.


Please send your proposal to Tom Conley, Harvard University ( and Anatole Tchikine, Dumbarton Oaks (, by Friday, June 1, 2016. Proposals should include the title (15 words maximum), abstract (150 words maximum), keywords, and a one-page CV (300-word maximum).

Tags:  Botanical collecting  Botany  France  Gardens  History of Science  Landscape  Landscape architecture 

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