A study for the Gonzaga gardens
The Mantua and Sabbioneta site Management Plan shows with particular relevance strengths and weaknesses of the cognitive framework currently available on some of our most representative heritage assets. The Plan is a tool designed to preserve the underlying values of the Mantua and Sabbioneta site, included since 2008 in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List. This is the reason for the project Gonzaga Gardens. Historical study and analysis for recovery and restoration, funded by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, in order to expand the knowledge and analysis of heritage assets with the goal of preserving and protecting them.
The study, conducted and coordinated by the Mantua and Sabbioneta World Heritage Office of the two Municipalities, with the collaboration of Associazione Amici di Palazzo Te e dei Musei Mantovani and the scientific direction of Paola Eugenia Falini, has as its objectives the promotion and knowledge of the Gonzaga era gardens, together with their architectural structures and structural consistencies. Never had this asset been systematically investigated an analysed to identify its typological, architectural and structural features and permanencies in order to ensure the most appropriate measures for their conservation and maintenance.
If the mission of a UNESCO site is to preserve and safeguard the values of recognised world heritage, all the elements that make it up need to be identified and analysed in order to bring out the cultural representations that contribute to their composition. Therefore, the lack of overall knowledge about some of the most representative monumental assets – such as the urban and suburban Gonzaga gardens of the two cities of Mantua and Sabbioneta – made it necessary to undertake this important study for the sake of their knowledge and rediscovery.
This research project lasted about two years and was carried out by a working group of scholars, art historians, architects and agronomy experts. First, it went ahead with a census and study of the Gonzaga gardens erected in the area of the ancient Mantuan Duchy, by means of a consistent scrutiny of archival and cadastral records, and was subsequently devoted to a detailed analysis and study of the two most important urban organisms: the garden of Palazzo Giardino in Sabbioneta and the gardens of Palazzo Te in Mantua.
The study was then set up through different operating procedures.
Starting from the collection of various available historical-bibliographic, archival and iconographic information, coordinated by Claudia Bonora Previdi and Marida Brignani, all the main Gonzaga gardens within the Mantua area were identified together with their history and key features of their origins.
The next step of the study included the systematic organisation of the previously collected information and the preparation of an inventory and a historical-critical mapping of the gardens collected in a monograph in the form of an Atlas. The basic available information was gathered for each garden with references to existing cartographic, iconographic, archive, and bibliographic sources, including a comment on the conservation status.
Two detailed researches were carried out next – one on the garden of Palazzo Giardino in Sabbioneta and the other on the garden of Palazzo Te in Mantua – specifically aimed at identifying the need for intervention, structured as follows:
- historical analysis of both the main building complex and the annexed gardens, from their origins to the present, identifying the fundamental stages of their evolution over time;
- present dimensions, at different scales, of both the main building complex and the pertinent park and garden, as well as the photographic and topographic survey of each;
- thematic analyses of the current conditions (accessibility, usability, intended use);
- analysis of the currently existing static and maintenance conditions of the building structures, furniture and greenery;
- assessment of the conservation status and definition of the related needs and intervention arrangements.
All the studies, researches, images, surveys, cartography and scientific and project results, coordinated by Paola Eugenia Falini and Patrizia Pulcini, were next published (by Del Gallo Editore) in the three volumes referred to in the links below:
- I giardini dei Gonzaga. Un Atlante per la storia del territorio a cura P.E. Falini, C. Bonora Previdi, M. Brignani, Del Gallo Editori, Spoleto 2018.
- Il giardino de la fontana di Sabbioneta. Un Progetto Guida per il giardino di Palazzo a cura P.E. Falini, Del Gallo Editori, Spoleto 2018.
- I giardini di Palazzo Te. Un Progetto Guida per i giardini dell’isola a cura P.E. Falini, Del Gallo Editori, Spoleto 2018.
The following pages, by Claudia Bonora Previdi, Marida Brignani and the Mantua and Sabbioneta World Heritage Office, focus on a part of the Gonzaga gardens still in existence and open to the public in some cases, mentioning their major historical and descriptive aspects found in the first volume.