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From Palladian Villa to American Plantation: Gardens and the Ideology of Country Living

Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto, University of Pennsylvania, Fellow 2014–2015

My Dumbarton Oaks fellowship allowed me to work on a book manuscript that addresses the nature of Palladio’s gardens in the villas of the Venetian mainland and their reception in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and colonial America. Contrary to the claims made by some scholars of colonial gardens, my research has allowed me to establish that the gardens of American plantations, with their typical “sloping falls,” are not so much indebted to a Palladian, or even an Italian, model, but are rather influenced as much by English local gardening traditions as they are by the Anglo-Saxon reception of Italian, i.e., Palladian, gardens. My greatest accomplishment this year has been to trace the literary source of the “sloping fall” in English treatises on agronomy and horticulture and to advance a critical interpretation of Palladio’s own farmyards, too often dismissed as either irrelevant from a horticultural and design perspective, or too prominent within the discourse of the Italian garden type. The resources of the library at Dumbarton Oaks, in addition to the constructive criticism offered by an alert audience at my research report and follow-up discussion, have been invaluable.