Piero de' Crescenzi's Liber ruralium commodorum : unearthing the origins of the pleasure garden

Bauman, Johanna Elizabeth, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Summers, John D., Department of Art, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Department of Art, University of Virginia

Piero de' Crescenzi's Liber ruralium commodorum, which was completed around 1306 and consists of twelve books, was the first major treatise on agriculture written in the middle ages. Although it is often mentioned in histories of medieval and Renaissance gardens, because it contains descriptions of pleasure gardens, there has never been a consideration of the pleasure garden descriptions in the context of the treatise as a whole. The main purpose of this dissertation is to recontextualize the role of the pleasure garden in an agricultural estate, by considering the relationship of Crescenzi's descriptions of pleasure gardens to the remaining agricultural books of the treatise. The dissertation begins with a consideration of Crescenzi's social, political, and intellectual backgrounds and how these influenced his decision to write a treatise on agriculture. Having placed Crescenzi in the context of the thirteenthcentury encyclopaedic tradition, the treatise is then summarized, making special reference to the sources Crescenzi employed, which include Roman agricultural writers, and treatises on medicine and the natural sciences, among others. This summary, which reveals the breadth of Crescenzi's undertaking and begins to demonstrate how the pleasure garden relates to Crescenzi's endeavor, is followed by an exploration of the prevailing definition of art and of agriculture, which includes a consideration of the status of agriculture in the medieval hierarchy of the arts. Having established the contexts of the author, the treatise, and the definition of agriculture, the pleasure garden descriptions are analyzed, showing how they relate not only to the rest of the treatise, but also to existing literary tropes and traditions. This analysis makes it possible, finally, to consider the aesthetic properties of pleasure gardens, which are simultaneously elevated from and rooted in agricultural theory and practice.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
treatise on agriculture, Piero de' Crescenzi

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:22.

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