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Musei Civici di Arte Antica
Comune di Ferrara

The Duchesses’ Garden


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The Estense Ducal Palace

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The Duchesses’ Garden

G.B. Aleotti, Pianta della città di Ferrara, 1605The Duchesses’ Garden was created between 1473 and 1481 according to the will of Ercole I d’Este. It was part of the plan of architectural transformation affecting the whole ducal residence.
The garden was created in the ample Court facing the Castle where, until then, were located stables, woodsheds and other facilities at the service of the rich Estensi residence.

It is nowadays impossible to reconstruct the garden precisely. Centuries of history, and a succession of different usages, have irremediably altered the identity of this place. Nonetheless, thanks to the preserved documents and to the findings of recent archeological excavations, it is possible to have an idea of how the garden must have appeared at the beginning of the XVI Century.

The garden stretched on an area of about 3000 square meters. It hosted a variety of plants, skilfully arranged according to the taste of the time, which transformed bushes and trees in sophisticated scenographic wings.

Il Giardino delle Duchesse
Between paths paved with squared stone and a well, unravelled box hedges of the most different shpes, cypresses, fruit trees and stretches of ‘simples’, as officinal herbs were called.
Their arrangement followed a regular cross scheme, at the centre of which shone a sumptuous golden fountain.
All around, armonious porticos completed this space, according to rchitectural canons probably inspired to the most distinguished scholars of the time, such as Leon Battista Alberti, associated to the Estense Court.

We also find a depiction of this spatial organisation in Moroni’s Pianta (map) of 1618, drawn a few years after the end of the Estense rule in Ferrara. The map shows the garden, already lacking the fountain, but still displaying the preserved original XV Century structure.

Image credits:

G.B. Aleotti, Map of the city of Ferrara (part.), 1605
Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

R. Moroni, Map of the city of Ferrara (part.), 1618
Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

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