The Villa Gamberaia is located in the elevated town of Settignano, rising high above the city of Florence, Italy.
I had the great fortune to visit the Villa and enjoy exploring and drawing the formal and atmospheric gardens when they were empty of visitors.
The enigmatic Gamberaia has a long history of admiration and has been restored and developed continuously throughout its existence. It has also been a popular destination during the early part of the twentieth century for artists, writers and garden designers.
‘Occasionally we visited the most beautiful and certainly in my eyes the most romantic garden of all, that of the Villa Gamberaia, and I wandered about, hoping that I might catch a glimpse of the place’s owner, Princess Ghyka, a famous beauty who, from the day that she lost her looks, had shut herself up in complete retirement with her English companion, refusing to let anyone see her unveiled face again. Sometimes I was told, she would come out of the house at dawn to bathe in the pools of the water garden, or would pace the long cypress avenue at night-but all that I ever saw (and I wonder if a hopeful imagination was not responsible for even this) was a glimpse of a veiled figure at an upper window.’
Iris Origo, Images and Shadows (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich c. 1970)
I am presently developing a series of graphite studies, varying in scale, which respond to the complex formal structures of each garden section whilst remembering the immense sense of calm solitude and sanctuary that I experienced whilst working there.
These works form part of a larger project which examines the evocative and specific nature of the garden through circular paintings, lenses and reflected imagery.
Photography Jane Frederick and Martin Bridges