Tag Archives: Gardens

In The Garden of The Beasts (Villa Borghese)

The title of this post is in reference to the statuary of animals both fantastic and natural found on the grounds of the Villa Borghese and its garden park in Rome.

Scipione Borghese was the Cardinal Nephew of Pope Paul V. The Cardinal Nephew (Cardinal Nepotente in Italian, from which the term nepotism is derived) was an official position and title in the church until 1692. In addition to the familial tie it implies, the position brought with it immense opportunities for wealth and power. Scipione Borghese took full advantage of these opportunities, at one point being one of the largest landowners in central Italy. He was a lover of art, and had a passion for gardening, creating famous gardens at both the Palazzo Borghese and the much larger private park of the Villa Borghese. The gardens consist of 148 acres of naturalistic parkland landscaped in the English fashion.

The Villa Borghese itself sits on the edge of the park, and houses the Galleria Borghese, an art museum focused around the collection amassed by Scipione Borghese. The art includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael, ancient Roman sculpture, and contemporary work by Bernini. The museum operates by timed, limited entry tickets, so unlike some of the larger, more popular museums (think Vatican Museum or the Louvre in Paris), the experience is never crushing as only a fixed number of people are in the museum at any time. You can always see the art without jostling or rushing. The park, on the other hand, is open to the public free of charge. It provides an oasis of greenery and openness amidst the chaos and compactness bordering on claustrophobia that is the city of Rome.

The plaza in front of the Villa is decorated by statuary, fountains, and an Egyptian obelisk or two. On the wall that demarcates the boundary between the plaza and the park, pedestals to support decorative urns are carved with dragons and eagles, elements from the Borghese family coat of arms. The eagles and dragons here are from the pedestals.

Eagle, Villa Borghese
Eagle, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Profile, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Profile, Villa Borghese
Dragon and Eagle, Villa Borghese
Dragon and Eagle, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Villa Borghese
Snarling Dragon, Villa Borghese
Snarling Dragon, Villa Borghese

The lion devouring the stag is from an ancient Roman marble vessel on the side terrace of the Villa Borghese.

Lion and Stag, Villa Borghese
Lion and Stag, Villa Borghese

The bull’s head is from one of a pair of cornucopia/planters adorning the front steps to the Villa Borghese.

Bulls Head, Profile, Villa Borghese
Bulls Head, Profile, Villa Borghese
Marble Bulls Head, Villa Borghese
Marble Bulls Head, Villa Borghese

For the photo geeks in the house, these were all shot with my Tele-Rolleiflex, many using the 0.35 Rolleinar close-up filter. The 0.35 Rolleinar helps bring the minimum focus down from 8 feet to a much more manageable 4-ish.

Nemours estate, Wilmington, Delaware

From the A.I. Dupont estate, Nemours, outside Wilmington, Delaware. A.I. Dupont, director of the Dupont chemical company, built the house as a gift to his second wife in an attempt to grow her affections for him. The 40,000 square foot house was built in 18 months. The interior features an elevator that runs from the basement to the third floor, a billiard room, bowling alley, an ice factory (the house was built before electric refrigeration, so they needed to be able to produce their own ice to keep the ice boxes cold), and a central vacuum system. The laundry was put in a separate building perhaps 30 yards from the main house so they could say they sent their laundry out.

This is a view down the lawn from the mansion front, looking to the colonnade (which crowns a massive fountain on the other side). The garden urns have been prepared for winter with their canvas covers and their fountains drained. Even today, the estate totals some 300 acres, down from the original 3000.

Urn, Prepared for Winter, Nemours
Urn, Prepared for Winter, Nemours

I was at Nemours between Christmas and New Years to see it for the last open weekend of the year (it closes at New Years and re-opens in May). The house interior is decorated as the Duponts would have decorated for the holidays. No photos of the interior are allowed, so I do not have any pictures from inside the house. Photography on the grounds is acceptable, however, so I took these pictures of some of the details outside. In the spring, when garden tours are offered, I’ll have to go back and shoot the gardens in greater detail.

Here is a sphinx, one of a matched pair, guarding the front porch of the house. I loved the way her white marble glowed in the late afternoon winter sun.

Sphinx, Entrance to Nemours
Sphinx, Entrance to Nemours

Paris in October – part 40 – Versailles Exteriors

This is the last post in the Paris in October series – with this, I’ve finished uploading new images from the series. I may go back and revisit a theme or two that span multiple posts, like staircases, but I’m pretty much done. It’s been a long, fun ride – two months worth of postings from a single nine-day trip. A lot of work, but well worth the effort. I hope you all have enjoyed the series as I’ve been posting them.

These are exterior views of Versailles, or at least view of/toward the exterior. I did not go out into the gardens – my feet were worn out at that point and they wanted an additional 9 euros to enter the gardens because they were going to be doing the musical fountain show, so I did not get around to the famous garden facade of the palace.

The entrance gates when you first approach are gilded iron. It’s one of the very first things you see, and it certainly makes an impression. Impressive as they are now, can you imagine what it would have been like in the 18th century to walk up to these gates?

Gilded Gates, Versailles
Gilded Gates, Versailles

The words on the building portico say, “A Toutes Les Glories De La France” – to all the glories of France. For a shining period, that was literally true of Versailles. It encapsulated the magnificence and power that was the French state in the era of Louis XIV. I don’t know when that phrase was placed on the building – it has much more of a Second Empire or Third Republic feel to it. It doesn’t seem like something one of the kings would have done – the palace itself screamed that sentiment in spades, putting it down in writing on the facade was superfluous and a bit gauche.

This is a view looking back at the town of Versailles from the palace entrance. The statue is the cousin of the one on the other side that I photographed in black-and-white with the grotesque figure providing a seat with its back for the allegorical female.

Statue, Entrance Gates, Versailles
Statue, Entrance Gates, Versailles

This is the palace’s front door. You can tell this is one of the older parts of the palace by the style – some brick instead of stone, less monumental in appearance. Less monumental, perhaps, but no less ostentatious. It had been raining that morning and so the marble tile courtyard surface was still wet.

Entrance Facade, Versailles, After the Rain
Entrance Facade, Versailles, After the Rain

A view of one of the fountains immediately adjacent to the house:

Fountains, Versailles
Fountains, Versailles

A view of the garden facade through a window of another wing of the building. The colors of the sky were beautiful with all the rainclouds breaking up. You can see down the long walk with the ponds in the middle, how far off the estate stretches.

Versailles, Clouds, Gardens
Versailles, Clouds, Gardens

Environmental Portraiture

Here are a few portraits of a friend of mine in his natural element. Charles is extremely fond of gardens and gardening, and this is one of his favorite gardens that belongs to a friend of his. I hadn’t seen him in several years, and so the other weekend I drove up to Baltimore to visit, and brought along the Rollei to shoot his portrait. I’m so glad I used some of my last remaining rolls of Fuji Reala – they did him justice. It was the least I could do to honor him as he’s been such a good and devoted friend over the years.

Charles, In Henry's Garden, #1
Charles, In Henry’s Garden, #1
Charles, In Henry's Garden, #2
Charles, In Henry’s Garden, #2
Charles, Rule Britannia, Henry's Garden, #3
Charles, Rule Britannia, Henry’s Garden, #3
Charles, Architectural Element, Henry's Garden, #4
Charles, Architectural Element, Henry’s Garden, #4

Here are a couple from my ongoing Food Truck series – the cashier and the head chef of Pepe, the Jose Andrés-helmed gourmet food truck here in DC. I THINK the young man giving the interview in the second photo may be Jose Andrés’ son.

Cashier, Pepe Spanish Cuisine Food Truck
Cashier, Pepe Spanish Cuisine Food Truck
Pepe Food Truck Chef Interview, Franklin Square Park
Pepe Food Truck Chef Interview, Franklin Square Park

The following two are shots of a friend of mine who is thinking of getting into modeling, so we did a couple test portfolio pieces out at Glen Echo a month ago. I think he’s got the face for it, for certain. The trick will be to figure out if he can move and pose, and if he can get his body conformed to modeling industry standards.

James, Glen Echo Park #1
James, Glen Echo Park #1
James, Glen Echo Park #2
James, Glen Echo Park #2

And last but not least, here’s one from the vaults of another very dear friend from Singapore. We went to Fort Canning and went up on the roof of the remnants of the fortifications to shoot some photos of him and some of his friends, and I grabbed this one between poses. It captures his personality absolutely, although he foreswears this photo now because he has quit smoking. But it still reflects his inner sparkle and cheek.

Mirza, Fort Canning, Singapore
Mirza, Fort Canning, Singapore

I’m trying to get better at photographing strangers, and photographing unposed portraits. I find it incredibly easy to photograph people I know well because I can perceive little gestures and nuances that reflect their personality. The trick will be to get better at that kind of perception with total strangers, without imposing preconceived notions of what I THINK they are on them. Perhaps it’s an impossible chase, but it’s one I’m going to hazard.