The waters of Tivoli

How often is it that a 16th-century Italian Renaissance garden comes up twice in the same week? Even for me, that's odd. So I thought it deserved a post.

First, I was helping my friends Clay and Ross plan an upcoming trip to Italy and advised them to visit Tivoli near Rome for the justly famous twofer of Hadrian's Villa and Villa d'Este. Soon after, as I was reading English landscape designer Dan Pearson's new book, Spirit: Garden Inspiration for a review, he wrote that he had first been inspired to visit the latter garden after seeing the experimental 1953 film by Kenneth Anger, Eaux d'Artifice. I had seen the film years ago but had forgotten how haunting it is. Even in its non-online form, the cinematography seems purposefully dark and murky as if filmed by moonlight and tinted in the manner of an old silent film.

Eaux d'Artifice, a play on the French phrase for fireworks "feux d'artifice" and a reference to another more controversial Kenneth Anger film, is all about water just like the garden it features. Back-lit water splashes, sprinkles and cascades all around the shaded walks and architecture of the hillside estate. Meanwhile a ghostly figure dressed for a masquerade runs through the fantastical scenes to suitably baroque compositions by Vivaldi. Her odd appearance and gait is heightened by the fact that Anger hired Carmilla Salvatorelli, a small-sized circus performer, for the role at the recommendation of Federico Fellini. I have to admit if I was by myself in the Villa d'Este during a full moon and I saw little Carmilla trotting purposefully toward me I would be a little alarmed.

Watch the 12 1/2 minute film below. Even though the quality is lacking, you still have to love the internet.

Below are more photographs of the garden in all of its strange glory, very much a monument to hydraulics and the power of water at the mercy of gravity.


Camilla said...

I've never seen this film. How amazing!

Tom G said...

Thanks for posting the clip. Great photos as well

CMH said...

awesome. i had forgotten that particular Kenneth Anger film. brilliant.