Sacro bosco

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The Sacro bosco in Bomarzo, Italy, also known as Parco dei Mostri, was built by Pier Francesco “Vicino” Orsini, patron of the arts, as a melancholy tribute to his lost love in the sixteenth century (a tablet in garden records the year as 1552). On the upper lip of the entrance is carved, “OGNI PENSIERO VOLA,” meaning ALL THOUGHT FLIES.

The follies in this garden bear a striking resemblance to the fantastic descriptions in a late fifteenth-century architectural treatise attributed to Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Vbi Hvmana Omnia Non Nisi Somnivm Esse Docet. Atqve Obiter Plvrima Scitv Saneqvam Digna Commemorat (The Hypnerotomachia of Poliphilo, in which it is shown that all human things are but a dream, and many other things worthy of knowledge and memory, 1499).

In the middle of the plinth the serpentine head of terrible Medusa was boldly and perfectly carved, howling and snarling to show its fury, with frightful eyes sunk under lowering brows, the forehead furrowed and the mouth gaping wide. … One climbed to this mouth-opening by way of the curling hair, which was formed with unimaginable cleverness and artistry, and extraordinary invention on the part of its maker, so that one could easily make the ascent to the gaping jaws by means of a regular staircase.

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