It was not until 1852, when Evelina van Millingen arrived in Vescovana, that the transformation of the garden began. It was she who revived if from a state of neglect and created the aura of aristocratic informality of the ‘Doge’s Farm’. She started the creation of her ‘Crispin de Passe’. She named her garden after the famous Flemish botanist Crispin van de Passe (1600).
Born in 1831 in Pera, an old residential suburb of Constantinople where the Venetian ‘bailo’ palace stands, Teresa Evelina Berengaria van Millingen was the daughter of Julius, an English doctor of ancient Dutch origin, known for having treated and assisted Lord Byron in Missolonghi, and a cultured French journalist.
A beautiful young girl, Evelina was sent to Rome to receive a good education from her grandmother. Back in Istanbul, she left for a trip to Venice. Her appearance in oriental costume at La Fenice Theatre aroused great admiration and opened the doors of Venetian nobility for her.
The architecture, statues and fountains
The garden of the Villa Pisani manifests the three souls of Evelina. The first due to her upbringing descended from her family of origin (English and Flemish). The second due to her adopted country as a bride. The third due to her strong ties with Turkey and Islamic culture. The strong English roots, expressed in the Victorian taste mitigated by respect for the centuries-old history of the Pisans, are combined with the tradition of the Italian garden and become a harmonious encounter between a strongly architectural layout and the naturalness of the surrounding park.
However, signs evoking the Islamic garden are evident, such as the fountain in the centre of the four avenues representing the four elements that govern life, air, earth, water and fire. Like the presence of stone peacocks, which are in the tradition of the sultans, the guardians of the house, and bulbous plants, especially tulips, the flowers of Allah.
Around the mid-1800s, the taste for the Italianate garden filtered through the Victorian taste had established itself, especially in Tuscany. In the Hapsburg Veneto this trend had found no match except in Vescovana, where the cultured and cosmopolitan owner, who could boast the Princes of Wales among her guests, created this particular layout with vases, statues and fountains, until it became a unique example of this type of garden.
The nature park, trees, flowers
A hedge of topiary yews in the form of solids divides the ‘immediate garden’ from the prairie and the park. The park is traversed by a perimeter path with branches along which one meets in succession the natural icehouse, the fountain dedicated to Symonds, the rock garden (the Mockery), the false ruins (“Temple of Baal and Walls of Jericho”), the Family Chapel, an important and unique example of Elizabethan neo-Gothic style realised in 1860 by the sculptor Antonio Gradenigo (sculptor for Jappelli in the Caffè Pedrocchi in Padua) based on a design by Pietro Selvatico Estense, the 19th century Theatre and the shrine dedicated to St. Anthony. But the masterpiece of this splendid project is the great quantity and variety of secular and monumental plants, also non-native, whose size and foliage make each one a unique as well as historic specimen.
It is a fascinating journey, in which each plant dispenses the most intense emotions: superb and generous sovereigns, they lead back to the mystery of nature that still and alive governs above all restlessness and infuses tranquillity in the play of shadows and light, darkness and glow. The Garden and Park of Villa Pisani bear witness to the personality and human fascination of Evelina Pisani so strong that it can still be felt.
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