A pervasive and timeless air of mystery suffuses the Parco dei Mostri, Pier Francesco Orsini’s arcane masterpiece of Mannerist garden landscapes. The sculptures seem to emerge from the earth itself as creatures of the underworld—carved, in some cases, from the bedrock itself.
Leave aside for a moment the sheer originality of the sculpture: the idea of carving monumental statuary directly from the landscape was already a departure from high Renaissance ideals. The concept connects the statuary to an elemental bedrock, entirely appropriate to the Gods, nymphs, sprites and Satyrs of classical tradition. It represents a turning away from the structured idealism of perfect gardens such as the Villa Lante (in the immediate vicinity) back towards what may seem to be an earthbound, perhaps even underworld, aesthetic. The author explores this unsung masterpiece, including the world of its hidden meaning. Profusely illustrated.