Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

The theatre of the marvellous operations of air Baroque  "wonders" of knowing Games of "wonder" in the Boboli Gardens

Giusto Utens, Boboli, Pitti Palace with Belvedere,
Florence, Museo Storico Topografico "Firenze com'era"

Gasparo Martellini, A meeting of the Accademia del Cimento Fresco, Tribuna di Galileo, Museo Zoologico "La Specola"

Late renaissance and baroque culture, which finds an emblematic expression in the Boboli Gardens, is marked intrinsically by a sense of "wonder", produced by the unsettling discovery of new worlds, new peoples, new animals and plants, and by the swift and sensational progress of scientific knowledge. Indeed, many of the celebrations held at Boboli represent the theatricalisation of this changed relationship between man and nature. The Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens were the preferred backdrop for the new intellectuals, who no longer abhorred the vacuum, nor bore the yoke of Aristotelian dogma. Medici culture sent out from these sites signals laden with long-term implications: Vasari and Buontalenti started off modern theatrical scenography, creating machines and stage-sets for the celebrations in Boboli which would have a following across Europe; the Bardi group inaugurated the well-received melodrama in the elegant rooms of the Pitti Palace, and lastly, the Members of the Accademia del Cimento held their experiments there, which were destined to change the face of physics.
"Wonder" was the key-word of the Medici celebrations held at Boboli, celebrations in which phantasmagorical images changed form and meaning, representing stars and skies, gods and planets, giants and underground worlds, as metaphors of the domination which man, thanks also to his imagination, managed to impose on nature.
These undertakings helped found a sort of new "physics" of the imagination, which interacted with, and was profitably incorporated by, the main figures, their methods and the extraordinary discoveries of the new philosophy of nature which flowed from the Scientific Revolution.



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