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When I was in Paris a few days ago and since I was not far away, I walked to the Luxembourg Garden, the second largest park in Paris.
Marie de Medicis, who bought the property in 1611, had a grotto built as part of the garden. She wanted to reproduce a bit of the garden of Boboli that she knew in her native Florence. The grotto represented a feature of the formal Italian garden design of that time.
In 1853 Charles McIntosh, landscape gardener to a number of European royalty in the nineteenth century, wrote about the Medicis in his volume dating sites for 50. He said, “The family of the Medici revived and patronized the art of gardening in Italy, and their gardens, which were of the geometric and architectural style, long served as models for most of Europe, and continued to be imitated in France, Germany, and Britain, until the introduction of the English, or, as it has been called, the natural style.”
So that Sunday as I strolled the grounds of Luxembourg I happened upon this famous grotto, a feature of formal Italian garden design.
The classical forms in statuary at the end of the pond appeared somewhat menacing because of their size, but at the same time also made me think about the role a grotto played in earlier garden design.
Thus a bit of Italian formal garden design entered France in the seventeenth century when France was establishing its own brand of formal garden design at Versailles.