Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Drawing of the Garden in Plan and Section

At the time of its construction in the late 1560s, there were no other gardens with this type of geometry.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Musica Negli Horti": The First International Festival of Music, Literature, Wine and Food in the Val d'Orcia

I wanted to translate the last post and also give an update on the Festival to anyone who might be in the area during the period Sept. 6-12. The festival is not only a series of important music events but will also showcase local cuisine of the Val d'Orcia and recently published books of regional interest. My book will be presented by my publisher and head of the Archives, Ugo Sani. He graciously offered to speak on my behalf since I cannot be there.

The presentation of the book will take place in the Palazzo Chigi in San Quirico d'Orcia at 11am on Sept.10th. It will be in given in Italian. The entire schedule of events can be found on the following website:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Presentazione del Libro al Festival Internazionale di Musica - 10 Sett.

Bello programma al Palazzo Chigi di San Quirico d'Orcia. Purtroppo, non ci saro'. Torno adesso a NY ,e ci staro' fino alla meta d'Ottobre.

Se siete in zona, guardate il Loro website:

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Statue of Grand Duke Cosimo III de'Medici

There are any number of misconceptions about the garden. One particularly irksome one is that the statue that dominates the heart of the lower garden is not original to the 16th Century design.  In fact, it was placed there in the 1950s for its protection after the Palazzo Chigi had been damaged during the Second World War.

The statue depicts the Grand Duke Cosimo III de'Medici (1642-1723). The statue was made as a way to thank the Grand Duke for giving the title of Marchese of San Quirico to Cardinal Flavio Chigi in 1677. This portrait was originally set in the ballroom of the Palazzo Chigi. There are many of us who think it should be put back as the finishing touch of a just-completed lengthy restoration of the building.

What really rankles me is that this particular Grand Duke was one of the most reviled of all of the Medici Grand Dukes and, one could say, single-handedly brought the Medici dynasty to an end (not necessarily a bad thing). He was corrupt and fanatically religious. He did away with religious tolerance proclaimed by Ferdinando I back in early 1600s and routinely punishing those who did not obey; public executions were extremely common. During his reign, trade all over Tuscany declined, population decreased substantially by malaria, plague, and food shortages, while taxes were routinely increased [p. 197-201. Hibbert, Christopher: Florence, The Biography of a City, London: Penguin Books, 1993].

So why does this despicable ruler have a place of honor in this utterly unique place?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Un Giardino Rinascimentale a San Quirico d'Orcia: La Storia di Diomede Leoni e dei Suoi Horti Leonini

Volevo aggiungere dal post di ieri, che questo libro e' stato tradotto e pubblicato anche in italiano.
Un Riassunto:
La realizzazione degli Horti Leonini nel tardo-cinquecento inizia con la storia di un sanquirichese chiamato Diomede Leoni. Ancora giovane, lasciò il suo paese natale per Roma dove visse circondato dalla élite del mondo artistico. Una lettera ufficiale scritta dal segretario del Granduca Francesco I de’Medici nel 1580, mostra che i Medici ricompensarono Leoni per la costruzione degli Horti. La stessa lettera porta alla luce certi dettagli della vita di Diomede Leoni: era un figlio illegittimo di un notaio; ereditò un pezzo di terra a San Quirico da suo padre, e costruì i suoi ‘horti’ per la “comodità” dei viandanti, particolarmente, e per i nobili che passavano sulla strada Romea. Ulteriori notizie indicano Diomede Leoni come uno dei tre amici di Michelangelo al suo capezzale quando egli morì. Infatti, Leoni fu l’unico a scrivere una testimonianza sugli ultimi momenti di vita del grande artista.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Mystery of Diomede Leoni and his Horti

The book attempts to shed light on the heretofore unknown owner and builder of a highly unusual garden in San Quirico d'Orcia.

The text interweaves biography and architectural analysis to begin to solve its mystery. I analyze the design of the garden by comparing it to other gardens of the same period and also to the architecture of Michelangelo, who Diomede Leoni knew during the artist's final years of life. In fact, Leoni was one of three men at Michelangelo's bedside when he died and the only one to write about the artist's last moments. Oddly enough, Giorgio Vasari completely ignored the presence of Leoni at Michelangelo's house when he described the event in his Lives of the Artists. The only explanation is that Diomede Leoni was neither a nobleman nor an artist.  In Vasari's eyes, he was a nobody. However, after Michelangelo's death, he became an important art broker for the Medici's, acquiring both Michelangelo's Bacchus and, many years later, his Brutus.
There is still so much more to learn about this garden. For now, at the very least, the book sets the record straight as far as when the garden was built, its unique design, and who was this man named Diomede Leoni.