Rota Topiária

Cultural Routes |
  • RegionViseu
  • Distance-
  • Stages9
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    On request

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    Learn more: Topiary Route


    Greek paintings inspired the Romans in their first landscape compositions. Seduced by these images, the Romans sought to make them real in the surroundings of their sumptuous Roman Villas. Like the Greeks, Roman landscapers (topiarii) could not do without certain constructions or sculptures in their works. These were generally of a religious character, and together with the modeling of the land and the plantation of trees and shrubs would integrate the set of their compositions. Not all Romans had the means to enrich their villas with marble statues, and this might have given C. Mattius the idea to sculpt certain shrubs, such as the yew, the boxwood and various species of laurel. Thus a new art currently called Topiary was born (Araújo 1962).
    At the end of the 15th century, with the cultural movement of the Renaissance, we will see a new incentive to this art in Italy. This was reported in the “letters of Plínio”, printed in 1485, where it is said that the toppiaii used to draw the name of the owner using boxwood or aromatic plants. From this same period is the Palazzo di Via Larga, where trees carved in animal shapes, such as elephants, dogs, lambs, and deer, among others, were the attraction. Other Renaissance villas have made of topiary art an important presence in their gardens.
    In Portugal, the 16th century marks the resurgence of landscape art, especially on the recreational farms of the great noble and ecclesiastical lords and on the fences of some convents.
    From the mid 16th century until the end of the 17th century, landscape art takes on a greater splendor mainly in the south of the country, a fact that is associated with the presence of the court in Évora and Vila Viçosa.
    At the end of the 16th century, camellias are brought from Japan to Porto, a fact that is confirmed by international experts who claim that these are the oldest in Europe (Carita, 1998). These plants, which with some mastery can be carved in different ways, will serve as the physical support for the development of topiary art.
    During the 17th century, the north of the country will present the most notorious testimonies of the development of topiary art in boxwood, camellias, yew, Atlas cedar, etc. - both in geometric shapes and others with a stylized zoomorphic shape - in plastic compositions with a surprising effect expressing a more dynamic and positive feeling, foreign to a more Mediterranean and Islamic spirit in the south of the country. Typically northern was the opening the garden over the exterior and the landscape.
    The most notable example that has survived to this day is the garden of Casa de Campo, in Celorico de Basto, where we find a composition made up of a set of fresh houses carved in camellias, with a lake in the center. Inside each of them there is a stone table, communicating with the outside through windows in the most varied forms. In the rest of the country, the “green sculpture” animates the garden's surface; in Basto it dominates it completely. Another interesting garden is that of Palace of São Cipriano, in Guimarães, where, instead of camellias, we see the boxwood cut into different volumes forming high walls topped by pine cones. (Carita, 1998).
    In the north of the country, however, landscape art becomes notable from the 18th century onwards, especially on recreational farms, having contributed to this fact the wealth from Brazil's gold. Then, the northern baroque flourishes. In all these farms there was a predominance of traditional vegetation, constituted by species of Mediterranean or Atlantic flora, since the taste for collecting exotic species had not yet been acquired.
    In the 20th century, topiary continues to be used and acting as the ex-libris of some gardens, as is the case of Casa da Gandarela. Built at the beginning of the present century following a 17th century composition, it constitutes an allegory to this art. In addition to a wall made of camellias in which there are windows opened over the garden, we take delight looking over the garden itself made up of bizarre shapes ranging from geometric elements, as in the case of columns, to eccentric irregular elements, such as spiral masses that reach 3 meters in height - reminding us of snakes wrapped around themselves -, parasols, birds and other fantastic animals built in varied plant material (boxwoods, camellias, magnolias, azaleas and cypresses).
    It is important to protect and disseminate this art incentivating its executioners to seek technical training in the area, thus avoiding its disapearance.

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