Duke Alessandro, Lord of Florence

Villa Madama

Even uncompleted, the Villa Madama, in Rome, Italy, with its loggia and segmental columned garden court and its casino with an open center, was one of the most famous and imitated villas and terraced gardens of the High Renaissance.

The palace is at the lower slopes of Monte Mario, on the west bank of the Tiber, a few miles north of the Vatican, and just south of the Foro Olimpico Stadium. Entrance is limited and touring of gardens requires prior permission with Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Construction

Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, cousin of the reigning pontiff Leo X, ordered the villa built on a prominent site against the lowermost slopes of Monte Mario, on the edge of Rome. The plan was designed by Raphael, who then left the execution (started in 1518) to his disciples, one of the most brilliant teams ever assembled on a site: Antonio da Sangallo the Younger produced the final plans and supervised the actual construction. The decorations are by Giulio Romano and Baldassare Peruzzi, both prime architects in their own right; Giovanni da Udine did stucco bas-reliefs imitating work found in Nero's recently-rediscovered Domus Aurea; Giovan Francesco Penni ("il Fattore") and the Florentine sculptor Baccio Bandinelli worked there too.

Aside from the Raphael loggia, the villa's greatest artistic element is the salone painted by Giulio Romano, with its magnificent vaulted ceiling. Raphael died at the age of 37 in 1520, with work at the villa far from completed. But after Giulio de' Medici became the second Medici pope, as Clement VII in 1523, work resumed in 1524-1525 and the villa was soon completed.

Legacy and gardens

The Villa Madama was the first of the revived Roman type of suburban villas designed for parties and entertainment built in 16th century Rome, and it was consciously conceived to rival descriptions of the villas of Antiquity, like Pliny's famous description of his own.

It had a courtyard with a monumental flight of steps, a circular court around which formal gardens were arranged, an open air theater excavated in the hillside, a hippodrome below, and a terraced garden with views of the Tiber river.

In the garden facing the loggia, the Elephant Fountain, designed by Giovanni da Udine, commemorates the Indian elephant "Annone", brought to Rome by a Portuguese ambassador for the consecration of Leo X in 1514.

Ownership after completion

The "Madama" of its name was Margaret of Austria, the same who is remembered in Palazzo Madama in Rome, seat of the Italian Senate. After the death of Clement VII, the villa remained Medici property, first belonging to Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, and later to Duke Alessandro, Lord of Florence, who married Margaret of Austria, the illegitimate daughter of Charles V, but left her a widow at the age of 15. She married Ottavio Farnese, a nephew of Pope Paul III and was soon widowed again, but at Margaret's death, the villa passed into the Farnese family, Dukes of Parma and Piacenza, who let it slowly fall into ruin.

The villa was restored by Carlo, Count Dentice di Frasso, who acquired the property in 1925, and his American wife, the former Dorothy Cadwell Taylor. Eventually the Frassos leased it to the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and it was soon purchased by Mussolini in 1941. Mussolini's monumental neo-Roman Foro Italico sports complex is next to the villa, on the site of its racetrack.

Villa Madama is the property of the Italian Government, which uses it for international guests and press conferences.

External links

Search another word or see Duke Alessandro, Lord of Florenceon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;