Friday, June 09, 2006

Landscape with Apollo killing the Cyclops

There are eight frescoes designed by Domenichino (1581-1641) in the National Gallery, all showing scenes from mythology set in classical landscapes. They originally decorated a garden pavilion at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, built in 1615 as the rural retreat of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini. They fall into the Roman and Renaissance tradition of landscape frescoes: realistic depictions of idealised versions of the real countryside surrounding the villa. However, these frecoes have an interesting further layer of complexity: they are actually trompe l’oeil depictions of tapestries, as can be seen clearly in Apollo killing the Cyclops, where the tapestry is lifted up at one corner and the bars of a window can be seen behind the leg of the cardinal’s dwarf. So in Aldobrandini’s garden pavilion, the real landscape was behind a wall, behind a fake window, behind a fake tapestry and behind a landscape that never really existed.

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