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AGRUMED: Archaeology and history of citrus fruit in the Mediterranean

Véronique Zech-Matterne
Girolamo Fiorentino

The humanistic tradition of citrus culture in Central Europe from the 15th to the 18th century

Helmut-Eberhard Paulus

Texte intégral

  • 1 On the transfer of orangery culture within Europe, in particular from Spain to Italy, see Paulus 20 (...)
  • 2 On the myth of the “Golden Apples” see Die Frucht der Verheißung 2011.

1The development of central Europe’s orangery culture during the 17th and 18th century can only be understood alongside the Renaissance humanism of the 15th and 16th century, which was concerned primarily with reviving the intellectual culture of classical times by reading and receiving the writers of classical antiquity. Its origins were based equally on two preconditions: that the contemporary garden culture of Spain and Sicily, which had specialised in citrus plants since the middle of the 15th century, was being transferred to the cultural centres of Europe;1 and the re-emerging appreciation of the Golden Apples myth in the context of the advent of Renaissance humanism.2

2Up to that point, the horticulture of citrus plants had evolved based on the experiences passed on by the Islamic and Saracen cultures, which continued the horticultural heritage of Roman antiquity. Comprehensive cultivation in the Roman tradition during the Middle Ages is documented for the area around Valencia on the Iberian Peninsula, and around Palermo in Sicily. These local traditions form the most important precondition for the formation of the central European orangery culture by providing the indispensable horticultural know-how. The knowledge and mastery of these techniques was a prerequisite for applied orangery culture as garden art, encompassing much more than merely the ownership of orangery plants and the trade of citrus fruits.

1. Humanism

  • 3 For the term “humanism” see Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 3, 1974: 1218-1232.

3The citrus culture experienced a decidedly positive revaluation in the context of Renaissance humanism, which proliferated in the 15th century. However, it was only in the 19th century that the term “humanism” come into existence3 in the work by Georg Voigt, published in 1859, with the programmatic title, The Revival of Classical Antiquity, or the First Century of Humanism (Die Wiederbelebung des klassischen Altertums oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humanismus). According to this treatise, humanism was simultaneously a movement in intellectual history and a lived philosophy, which tried to illustrate the modern search for humanity using examples from antiquity. The humanists’ goal was the formation of the human character inspired by the culture of classical antiquity. Historically, humanism is defined as the trigger and catalyst of the Renaissance. In political history, the end of Renaissance humanism is equated with the denominational separation and reformation of the Christian Church in the 16th century. As a mentality, humanism developed its full potential in the 17th and 18th century by providing the programmatic axioms for artistic design and decoration.

4Today the term humanism is used and interpreted in inflationary ways but for our purpose it is limited to the period of Renaissance humanism. Unlike the later neo-classical Neu-Humanismus which was confined mainly to Germany and understood Greek antiquity as magistra vitae (Lehrmeisterin) – analogous to the German classicism of Goethe’s times Renaissance humanism was essentially Italian and derived from Roman antiquity, even though it eventually became a pan-European intellectual movement. It emerged around 1400, climaxed in the 15th and 16th century and continued to have an effect well into the 18th century. Around 1800, a new scholarly approach to the study of antiquity (Altertumswissenschaft), developed by Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), initiated the abovementioned Neu-Humanismus, which today appears to be less a revival of Renaissance humanism than a countermovement bringing new and unexpected consequences.

  • 4 For the term “reception” see Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 8, 1992: 996-1008.

5At first Renaissance humanism was purely a scholastic movement arising from scholasticism – the medieval educational system – which strived for liberation from the theological-philosophical truths of the Middle Ages. Gradually, these scholars disentangled themselves from the predestinations of Christian dogmatism, striving for the expansion of the canon of education in order to further the unimpeded development of human intellectual powers. The chief approach in the course of this project was the reception, or recourse, on past, apparently proven, paradigms (although the method of reception has its precursors in the Church Fathers). Therefore, the reception was linked to the rediscovery and exploration of one’s owns origins, leading to a revaluation of the origins of the various European nations, analogous to the formation of the Italian cultural circle from the heritage of antiquity.4

  • 5 From Thomas Aquinas, cited in Pseudo-Aristoteles, Liber de causis 9, ed. O. Bardenhewer, Freiburg, (...)

6Thus, Renaissance humanism is essentially the comprehensive reception of the intellectual life of Greek and Roman antiquity from the perspective of the Latin Middle Ages – reception literally meaning the adoption and appropriation of extraneous thoughts and cultural practices. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) expressed the central scholastic axiom of reception as following: “Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur” (Whatever is received is received in the manner of the recipient).5

7The reception, in the context of the Renaissance, coincided with the expansion of medieval limits of thinking, that is, the detachment from the theological-philosophical patronage of medieval church doctrine by taking recourse to an older canon of education, independent from Christian scholasticism. This canon was offered by Roman antiquity via the already known works of Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 BC), which were now re-interpreted to take into account historical sources. The revival of the classical conception of the human being, represented in the Latin writings, was a central tenet of the Renaissance, lifting the ‘uomo universale’ to a new ideal of humankind.

1.1. Humanitas and Opera

  • 6 On Cicero and his works: K. Büchner, Cicero, in Der kleine Pauly. Lexikon der Antike, München, 1975 (...)

8The humanism of the Renaissance era was based on Cicero’s concept of Humanitas. He understood Humanitas as the sum of intellectual values and specific practices, which together make humans human (“Menschenbildung”). Cicero first uses the term Humanitas around 80 BC.6 It embodies the quintessence of classical intellectual culture, which was primarily concerned with the self-knowledge and self-awareness of the human spirit. Cicero’s predecessors on this subject were the Roman poets Plautus and Terence. Cicero later refined the term by also relating it to the aesthetic-intellectual development of the human mind. The fundamental writings, in which Cicero discusses the topic Humanitas, were Pro Murena (61) and Pro Caelio (24). Regarding the writings of Pliny the Younger, the Panegyricus on Trajan (47) became particularly important.

  • 7 On Leonardo Bruni: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 3, 1974: 1231-1232 (Humanität); Mout 19 (...)
  • 8 For the humanist Opera see Paulus 2015. Confirmation of the term Opus in the inscriptions of the or (...)

9Leonardo Bruni’s (1369-1444) Studia Humanitatis became the key work for Renaissance humanism.7 These studies on classical literature, aiming at a comprehensive reception of classical intellectual life, were to point the way to a renewed Humanitas according to the ideas of Bruni’s era. The goal was to create highly sophisticated works of art, so-called Opera. Opera was supposed to have an Olympian quality and was to be compared to the deeds of the godlike Hercules, founder of the Olympic games. Operas were artistic works – physical and intellectual creations – and at the same time metamorphoses, celestial transformations and re-formations of certain underlying ideas. Last but not least, they were supposed to be immortal works, or in other words, works of timeless and – from the human perspective – eternal importance.8 Their reward or merit (meritum) was eternal fame (fama).

  • 9 Since the Middle Ages the disciplinae has comprised the philosophical artes liberales (grammar, dia (...)

10The humanist Opera found expression in genres such as theatre and music, but also in other arts and crafts, such as drama, music, musical comedy, literature, and poetry. Opera comprised the whole gamut of the Latin disciplinae, consisting of the artes liberales and the artes minores.9 Lastly, they encompassed the various forms of the applied arts, from pictura (pictorial art) to architectura (architecture), and from topiaria (topiary) to horticultura (kitchen gardening).

  • 10 For the Golden Age see Paulus 2014.

11Opera often contained various images, metaphors and allegories of the heroic deeds and characteristics of the twelve Olympians. A particular popular subject of the Opera were the deeds of Hercules, especially the depiction of metaphoric topoi such as the slain dragon, Hercules’ club, the lion skin, or the depiction of Hercules with the Apples of the Hesperides. These divine properties quickly took on a life of their own as independent motifs, such as the Golden Apples, or the orange trees with fruits, which likewise became metaphors of the Opera and properties of Hercules. Exemplary for Olympic heroism, as represented in the deeds of Hercules, these metaphors are the link to Virgil’s Golden Age.10 Even the possession of the Golden Apples belonged to the humanist Opera, signifying immortality and eternal life. The image of the Apples of the Hesperides stood for peace, justice, fertility, and eternal spring; their golden glow denoting the divine. The Golden Apples were a genuine property of the topos of the Golden Age.

12To the Opera belonged numerous other fruits of the Studia Humanitatis as well as the arts. Usually they are a transformation of nature into art, or a new creation with the gifts of nature. In these art forms, the paradigms of humanism lived on, long after the decline of the humanist movement. The various Opera forms go beyond the scope of the classical arts such as music, dance, drama, rhetoric, poetry, painting and architecture. They explicitly included the art of gardening (topiaria) and farming (opus rusticum).

  • 11 On the significance of Virgil see K. Büchner, Vergilius, in Der kleine Pauly. Lexikon der Antike, M (...)

13Two paradigmatic figures of classical antiquity point the way to the humanist Opera: Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70-19 BC),11 an epic poet, and Hercules, a mythological figure. The mythological figure of Hercules was elevated by the Greek philosophers to the archetype of the human being, who, through work and endurance, finds meaning in life and attains divinity. As previously mentioned, this figure epitomises the ambitions of the Opera. Next to Cicero, the poet Virgil represents the Latin language, and through his pastoral poems Bucolica he also became an influential poet of the Middle Ages. But Virgil also stands for the Roman founded myth Aeneid and especially the programmatic gold myth, including the related promise of the return of the Golden Age of classical antiquity – representing no less than the promise of the Garden of Eden.

14In the centre of the Studia Humanitatis, therefore, the human being stands on the one hand as an individual, and on the other hand as a part of the universe (uomo universale). At the same time it is about man’s Opera, about his works which are to be measured against the examples of classical antiquity and Olympic greatness. The aim of humanist studies is man reformed through his own Opera.

1.2. Creation and revival

  • 12 For the Accademia Olimpica in Vicenza see Rigon 1989.

15With the deeds of Hercules, classical literature provides a fitting paradigm of virtuous works of Olympic glory. Opera, however, is not only the mythical feats of Hercules, but a deed of classical antiquity attempting to follow his example. In Vicenza the activities of the Academia Olympica were considered on par with Herculean deeds.12 For the Venetian patricians the Villegiattura and the colonisation of the Terraferma were likewise Herculean works, just as the topiaria for the nobility and bourgeoisie of the early modern cities. They found expression in the expanding orangery culture of the 15th century and in horticultura, which was about to develop into a botanical science.

  • 13 Vergil, Bucolica 4, 1 sqq.; also in Aeneid I, 291-296 and VI, 791-805; furthermore Aeneid VIII, 314 (...)

16Renaissance culture aimed at the revival and rebirth of the model of classical antiquity in which the topos of “return” played a central role. Moreover, the subject of the Golden Age also belongs to the metaphors of the humanist Opera, in the sense propagated by Virgil. The Golden Age represents perfection per se, but also the rebirth, revival, and renaissance as invoked by Virgil. In contrast to Virgil’s predecessors such as Hesiod, the Golden Age was viewed not as a world beyond our own, but as a state of renewal and a place of real returning.13 Thus, the new Golden Age, which Virgil predicted in his Fourth Eclogue, moved to the centre of Renaissance humanism.

2. The Golden Apples

17Opulent fruit plants and bucolic plant motifs are considered characteristics of the Golden Age postulated by Virgil, because this era is a metaphor for happiness and wealth, peace and justice, joy and fertility, youth and eternal life. The metallic shine of gold represents the realm of the divine and eternal.

18The Golden Apples are, of course, an ideal image of this Golden Age. In one sense they are a visible and real metaphor of the Golden Age – pictorial realisation of the gold phenomenon as well as a floral reality of an evergreen, blossoming spring – and in another sense they represent the property of Hercules and thus a call for the seizure of the divine garden of the Hesperides. The cultivation of the Golden Apples is an imitation of the deeds of the divine Hercules; their possession denotes immortality and eternal life; their image represents fertility, youth, and eternal spring, and their golden shine reflects a divine being.

2.1. The renaissance of the art of the Hesperides

  • 14 Leon Battista Alberti, Zehn Bücher über die Baukunst, book 9, chapter 4.

19The humanist Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), himself an architect and theorist of architecture, incorporated the art of gardening into the canon of the classical disciplinae.14 Pointing to the exemplariness of classical gardens he assigned the citrus plant a fixed place in the garden, supplementing it with other ‘classical’ plants such as myrtle, laurel, juniper, ivy, and boxwood, which are later counted among typical orangery plants. He discusses potted plants as well as pergolas, covered with vines and citrus plants, which are known in Italy as early forms of the Limonaie and Aranceti. The notion of a Garden of Eden, inspired by the gardens of the Gods with bitter orange trees (C. x aurantium) of classical antiquity, can be found as early as 1487 in the garden of the Villa di Poggioreale in Naples, which was started on February 17th of that year. A precondition for the revival of the art of gardening were skilled gardeners, which, as in case of the Villa di Poggioreale, were apparently brought in from Spain in 1450. Thus, the revival of the orangery culture, in addition to the humanist movement and its ideas, also required a revival of the practices of plant cultivation.

  • 15 See note 1.

20The migration of gardeners was of vital importance for the renaissance of the orangery culture following Alfonso V of Aragon’s ascension as King of Naples – as Alfonso I – in 1442. This was the starting point for the spread of orangery gardens in central Europe via Italy. In 1450, the new sovereign of Aragon ordered the Viceroy of Valencia to send not only plants but specifically orangery gardeners to Naples, because the art of cultivating citrus trees had fallen into oblivion. Between February 20th and February 22nd, 1495, the French king Charles VIII, who originally had come to Naples as a conqueror, witnessed the results of the revived orangery culture in the gardens of the Palazzo di Poggioreale outside the gates of Naples. He was inspired and had this citrus culture transferred to Amboise and later to Blois in France – again by way of sending a gardener, a certain Pacello di Mercogliano, from Poggioreale, where he rose to considerable fame.15

21When it came to the spread of the citrus culture to central Europe, the transfer of knowledge of gardening techniques proved to be much more important than the distribution of plants. Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and great-grandson of the above mentioned Alfonso V of Aragon, brought the orangery culture from Spain, and later from the Netherlands, to Prague and Vienna. Ferdinand I had spent his youth in Spain with his grandfather Ferdinand V, called “the Catholic”. Ferdinand V was King of Aragon and Castile, and since 1502, as Ferdinand II, also King of Naples. His grandson, Ferdinand I, spent parts of his youth with his aunt Margaret in the Netherlands before he took up the legacy of the Austrian patrimonial lands. As husband and heir of the Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Ferdinand I arrived in Prague where he went to great lengths in order to establish the citrus cultures in the vineyards north of the Hradčany, which he had bought in 1534. There is a citrus gardener (cetro) documented in 1535 – an Italian gardener Francesco from Vienna – and from 1538 we have the first records of a noteworthy population of citrus plants: “Lemoni, Pomeranzen, Citroni”.

  • 16 On citrus culture in Prague see Dobalová 2015. On the early citrus culture in Vienna see Martz 2015

22Only a few years later such plants are documented for Vienna as well. The first archival records mentioning bitter orange trees in Vienna are dated 1542; the first documented mention of bitter orange chests – containers for a movable orangery – is dated 1544.16

2.2. Orange tree groves and overwintering

23In central Europe, more than in Italy or France, the wintering of plants sensitive to frost was a formidable task leading to the distinctive development of wintering buildings. Strictly speaking, these buildings are no more than makeshift solutions to get the plants through the winter. There were heated rooms for movable citrus plants, and there were seasonally changing orange tree houses, or semi-changeable Limonaie for citrus trees, which had been bedded out. The architecture was first defined by the needs of a citrus culture that had to be cultivated throughout the seasons. Later, these structures were conceived as shape-shifting localities, allegories of a metamorphosis analogous to the metamorphosis of plants.

  • 17 For orangery buildings and Pomeranzenstuben see Hamann 1996; Paulus 2005b; 2013.

24In central Europe, structures for wintering movable citrus plants were first documented in the second half of the 16th century. They comprised various structures, from independent houses through orange barracks and rooms, to orangery vaults, for instance in the palace garden of Prague in 1539. Shortly after, in 1549, the Hofburg Palace in Vienna featured a seasonally changing wintering house, which was called the Pomeranzenstube.17

25Apparently, from the very beginning various models – movable and stationary orangeries – existed simultaneously, a condition that can be continuously observed until the middle of the 18th century.

3. A humanistic way of life

26The orangery culture of central Europe is not conceivable without the intellectual context of Renaissance humanism, which attempted to revive the intellectual culture of classical antiquity. It is telling that the spread of orangery culture, in a narrow sense, runs parallel to the development of Renaissance humanism. It reached the highest pinnacle of its artistic forms in the 17th and 18th century, when humanist education became inevitable for the life style of the upper tiers of society, even if the scientific approach of humanism had become obsolete since the beginning of the Counter-Reformation.

27Renaissance humanism facilitated metaphoric thinking through confrontation with the philosophy of Neoplatonism, which was practiced particularly in the circles of the Medici’s of Florence and which also provided the basis for the Allegoresis. Platonic thinking brought the insight that an idea can exist separately from the matter, and that content can exist separately from form. The “idea” as a carrier of the true and unchanging archetype can take shape in various forms. In order to realise an idea, one can make use of metaphors, symbols and especially allegories.

  • 18 On the significance of the Medici court see Gröschel 2010. On the Renaissance neo-Platonic philosop (...)

28In the final analysis, it was the influential Church Father Aurelius Augustine (AD 354-430) who brought about the reconciliation of early western Christendom with Plato’s philosophy and the neoplatonic heritage of classical antiquity, using allegory. Its full potential, however, was only reached with its reception during Renaissance humanism at the Neoplatonic Florentine Academy, under the patronage of the Medici’s family. As a consequence, the treatment of an allegorical world of symbols experienced a renewal.18

3.1. Allegory

  • 19 On the relationship between myth and allegory see Paulus 2011a: 271-273 (“Der Mythos der goldenen F (...)

29The result of this “new” (since technically it was known since classical antiquity) way of Platonic thinking is the early modern allegory, which dominated the pictorial and architectural arts in Europe until the late 18th century. This metaphoric thinking, revived and invigorated by the Renaissance neoplatonic school, enabled not only the revival of the mythological imagery of classical antiquity but also the further development of metaphoric ways of thinking to an all-encompassing allegorical system.19

30Allegories cannot be understood without knowing the world of meanings they express. Similar to the symbol, an allegory represents a meaning different from its content. However, unlike the symbol, as understood in the European Enlightenment, there is no fixed, dogmatic system of interpretation regarding allegories; allegories are always ambiguous. While the symbol is a sign denoting a certain content, an allegory works with similes. It is this quality which enables the double character of the allegory – the one that is and remains the same, and yet does not exclude others. Allegories have multiple layers of meaning and appear in a variety of shapes. They usually operate within blurred, transitional zones, create spheres of meaning and develop spatial programmes. In the end, an allegory is an instrument of a transcendental construction, which can enable a hermeneutic interpretation of certain contents by way of transmission to other images or other objects.

31By the end of the 18th century the allegory had become, in particular through its literary communication, a distinctive type of trope in the arts, and an exceptional case in interior design and architecture.

3.1. The allegory of the Golden Age

  • 20 For the Golden Age in the orangeries see note 8 and Paulus 2009; 2011b.

32The central European orangery of the 17th and 18th century, too, is an allegory of the Golden Age (felicitas) in its most general meaning, realized through the art of gardening. The orangery cult of the early modern era is based on a paradigm from Roman antiquity. In the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great, the citrus plant from the tree of the citron (Citrus medica), first mentioned by Theophrastus and little known today, was brought to Europe from Persia and Asia. This fruit was then magnified by the Roman poet Virgil in his Bucolica to become the Golden Apples or the Apples of Happiness (felix malum).20 In doing so, Virgil undeniably had a political intention, as his Fourth Eclogue from the Bucolica is dedicated to Asinius Pollio, a consul from 40 BC and a close associate of Octavius Augustus. Virgil celebrated Augustus’ regency as a rebirth of the Golden Age.

33With his Bucolica and his Aeneid, Virgil founded not only the tradition of the Golden Age’s revival in contemporary times, but also the legend of the Golden Age of Saturn’s reign, which he adapted in Latin. Furthermore, he indirectly refers to the works of Hesiod, written 700 years before his time.

34These traditions are later carried on, namely in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the writings of Seneca. As it turned out, Virgil’s vision of a Golden Age was to live on in philosophy and literature until the end of the 18th century. The Roman poet’s works remained a cornerstone of classical knowledge well into the 18th century, as did his metaphors, which provided the arts with a rich arsenal of topics. His myths only became obsolete when their metaphoric and allegorical interpretations, which were based on them, were discredited by the emergence of a new canon promulgated by classical studies. Until then, Virgil’s imagery was used as a matter of course in the arts because his Golden Apples seemed to be a natural link to Hercules and the Hesperides, to Latium as the refuge for Saturn after the fall of the Titans, to Venus-Aphrodite as goddess of nature and Rome’s patroness, and lastly to Rome itself, the Eternal City and capital of the world.

3.3. Allegories of the Eternal City of Rome

35Virgil’s writings are the foundations on which Rome based its claim to eternity. Humanism reinforced this claim through the intensive study of classical writers, from Virgil to Livius, from Plato to Ovid. The movement of the Renaissance neoplatonic philosophy, which emerged in the middle of the 15th century, took up the tradition of the Hellenistic philosophy of Neoplatonism and at the same time re-discovered the whole spectrum of the classical philosophies of virtue, and placed the heritage of antiquity and its writers in the centre of contemporary creative work. It thereby also provided a humanistic reinterpretation of Rome’s claim to eternity. This idea, celebrated by Virgil, of the eternal recurrence of its predestination could not have been expressed better than through the pictorial revival of the classical world and its gods and heroes. This was by no means confined to the mythological figure of Hercules and its related metaphor of virtuousness, but also included Venus as the goddess of life, nature and blossoming gardens, and as the patroness of Rome. The group of relevant gods was enlarged to include Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture and ruler of Latium), the gods of the seasonal vegetation phases, and gods such as Flora, Ceres, and Bacchus, which at the same time were metaphors of the Golden Age. It also included, Mercury, the messenger of peace and herald of the Golden Age, and Apollo, god of light, sun, and the Muses. The list of revived gods who metaphorically reflected the myth of ancient Rome and its concomitant claim to eternity could be easily extended.

3.4. Ovid’s Metamorphoses

36The most important foundation, on which the furnishings and meanings of the orangeries rest, is Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In fact, the entire body of Latin literature was a mine of ideas since its rediscovery by the humanists in the 15th century. The most comprehensive fund of topics, however, was clearly provided by the works of Ovid, which were – quite rightly – termed as scripts for the orangery culture in the 17th and 18th century. Central Europe’s orangeries owe their great significance to Ovid’s rigorously implemented agenda – based on Virgil’s idea – namely to give the abstract concept of eternity a concrete and vivid shape by employing the metamorphosis as a process constantly recurring in nature.

3.5. Literature on the Hesperides

  • 21 On the literature of Hesperides and the treatises on orangery architecture see Paulus 2011a.

37A much older and more comprehensive term than “orangery” is the Latin word Hesperides. As a synonym for the orangery culture, this term refers to the origins in antiquity – origins of architectural forms, and of the highly symbolic world of plants. The 15th century saw the publication of several treatises on botany and plant cultivation, on the methods of propagation by seed and overwintering as well as the architectural and horticultural integration of the citrus culture as one holistic project. Thus, until far into the 18th century, the term Hesperides appears in the titles of the authoritative works on orangery culture.21

38The texts on the Hesperides have their own tradition. Starting about 1490 Johannes Jovianus Pontanus (1429-1503) wrote a treatise on the gardens of Gian Francesco II Gonzaga, Margrave of Mantua (1484-1519), eventually published in 1520 in Florence under the title Horti Hesperidum. In 1646 (nec 1633) Giovanni Baptista Ferrari (1584-1655) published in Rome the most comprehensive work on orangery culture in Latin, which at the time was the international language. He also chose a title that included as many aspects of the orangery culture as possible, namely Hesperides siue de malorum aureorum cultura et usu libri quatuor. Jan Commelin’s (1629-1692) Nederlantze Hesperides, published in 1676 in Amsterdam, the international capital of plant trading, made the term Hesperides a synonym for orangery culture in the Netherlands. Christoph Volkamer also used the term Hesperides for the title of his multi-volume work on the citrus fruit, which he started publishing in 1708. In his introductory remarks he pointed to the exemplary nature of classical antiquity, to the visualisation of metaphors in the classical Latin literature, to the depiction of the allegorical dimension of the teaching methods of classical mythology, and to the visually conveyed philosophy of virtues from Plato to Seneca. All these are listed as topics of orangery culture.

39The cult of the Hesperides was not just an appreciation of plants, or self-realisation through horticulture and architecture, but a real engagement with a philosophical programme, highly coded through metaphors and symbols, which was accessible only to those who were well versed in classical mythology and literature.

4. Architecture of the orangery

40The architecture of the orangery facilities in central Europe varied widely in its specifications. However, it remained globally determined by the plant and gardening culture as carried by the neoplatonic philosophy. Orangeries were not just plant houses defined by their architecture, but also parts of the garden in which buildings had their specific functions. Orangeries were basically gardens in an architectonically mediated context, and collections of plants were part of a practised garden art.

41The orangery was a cosmos sui generis because it was a place not only for plants but also for humans. Orangery buildings were the home for plants, and at the same time rooms in which human beings could inhabit. The task of the orangery was to promote the golden fruit and the evergreen flowering citrus tree as an attribute of man and his immediate social environment. Orangeries were allegorical spaces, which took on a deeper meaning only through the philosophical interactions of the people present in them. This way, the orangery became the stage for the classical plant world, or what it was deemed to be. The dramatic repertoire of this world, however, was provided by the intellectual culture of humanism.

42Around 1530, the orangery became obligatory in the palace gardens of the nobility. As a special attraction of ambitious princes, such as Emperor Ferdinand I (1503-1564) or Count Palatine Ottheinrich of Pfalz-Neuburg (1502-1559), they are compared to the art chambers and cabinets of wonder which became fashionable in the 16th and 17th century. Likewise, until the middle of the 18th century, orangery culture and its topoi spread to monasteries, the houses of burgesses and other highly educated circles.

43The buildings within the orangery gardens ranged from simple, seasonally changing constructions for trees planted in the ground to the representative, partly habitable, orangery summer houses, in which the function of overwintering was actually less important that its representative function.

44One of the early seasonally changing wintering buildings was received by the Palatine Count Friedrich V (1596-1632) from the Dutch architect and engineer Salomon de Caus (1576-1626). This was the Hortus Palatinus with its orangery (the Pomeranzenhaus), which they started building in 1614 in Heidelberg. Pictures of this garden have survived to present day because Salomon de Caus published his plans for the Hortus Palatinus in Frankfurt, after his dismissal in 1620.

45The allegorical and representative orangery culture reached its pinnacle before the middle of the 18th century, when palace architecture and orangery gardens were combined at the courts of noblemen and princes of the Holy Roman Empire.

4.1. Staged metamorphoses

  • 22 On Salomon Kleiner and the lower Belvedere see Paulus 2007a; 2007b.

46A definitive climax in the development of the central European orangery was reached with the Belvedere gardens of the Austrian statesman and commander, Prince Eugene of Savoy in Vienna. Its original design was passed on through engravings of Salomon Kleiner, published 1731-1740. In 1737 volume 8 was published, treating the private garden of the Prince, the so-called “small garden” which contained the seasonally changing Pomeranzenhaus, as already legendary. Unfortunately, these engravings are the only sources of its original design remaining today.22

47In 1738 the first engravings were published on the lower building of the Belvedere garden, an orangery pavilion of hitherto unknown size and dimensions. It was the first structure to be built, with construction starting in 1712. The pavilion was an idiosyncratic symbiosis of a garden building and with a summer apartment, a classical gallery, and an orangery house. Prince Eugene, who had received a humanist education, used it as a personal refuge during the summers, spending his time in the immediate vicinity of his Roman antiquities – including excavation finds from Herculaneum – his citrus trees and his library on philosophy. Here he lived according to his self-image of the Prince of Peace and Son of the Muses.

48The lower building of the Belvedere features two large orangery halls, taking up two-thirds of the space. In the centre between them there is a two-story ballroom, and to each side of it there was a small apartment for the prince, its size appropriate to the garden building as a whole. This room served as a semi-representative chamber. The actual refuge of the prince is hidden in one of the wings near the chamber garden, only to be reached through an orangery hall, then through another hall with walls decorated with grotesques reminiscent of the paintings in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and finally through a marble gallery with three antique sculptures from the excavation site of Herculaneum. Once past all of these ante-rooms one enters the prince’s secret chamber, which was later called the discussion room (Konversationszimmer), underlining the chamber’s philosophical dimension.

49The chamber garden of the Belvedere in Vienna, or the so-called Kleine Garten, belonged to a restricted private area of Prince Eugene. At the same time it is the observation chamber (Prospektraum) for the stage-like orangery – the Pomeranzenhaus. The house appears as a stage-like, raised terrace beyond the water ditch with fountains, which could be crossed only over a bridge guarded by Hercules and Apollo. On the stage there was a citrus grove planted in the ground, i.e. a classical Limonaia, lined on three sides with walls, which had window panes that could be closed during winter and boarded up if necessary.

50The Pomeranzenhaus of Prince Eugene was much more than a wintering place for a Limonaia planted in the ground. It was the highly elaborate stage for the drama of metamorphosis, the metamorphosis of eternity as found in nature, and the metamorphosis of Prince Eugene from virtue into history, analogous the fruits of virtuous deeds, the very same golden fruits that are also symbols of the Golden Age.

4.2. Classical studies as the end of the allegorical orangery

51The decline of the classical orangery in central Europe started in the last third of the 18th century, when it was transformed into a more functional greenhouse. At the same time, the harmony between garden and architecture, as well as the allegorical dimension – as a reference to classical antiquity and the Golden Age, to Venus Island and the Hesperides – was abandoned. The longing for the world of classical antiquity was gradually replaced by a longing for the South, and the heroic, Arcadian gardens were replaced by exotic and untainted nature.

52The systematic demythologisation of the orangery gardens and buildings was followed by the encyclopaedic pursuit of an artificial Garden of Eden which, at the same time, had a natural appearance. This passion also corresponded to the recently outdated landscaped gardens. The decline of the Allegoresis and the growing diversity of exotic plants through the internationalisation of the overseas trade brought about the substitution of the orangery building with the modern glasshouse for exotic plants, which increasingly featured glass windows and elaborated heating systems. At the same time, the glasshouses for the year-round storing of plants received a new function in the 19th century. The goal of the modern glasshouse was no more the allegorical staging of plants as part of a world filled with symbolical meanings, but rather the presentation of botanical collections in glass halls, as a revelation of nature in the glistening light of Enlightenment, and in the artificial climate of progress. The humanist concept of a reception of classical antiquity, materialised in garden culture, was thus abandoned.


Balsam 2014: S. Balsam, Die Orangeriekultur in der Residenz Nassau-Weilburg, in Orangeriekultur in Rheinland-Pfalz, Berlin (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 11), p. 112-125.

Dobalová 2015: S. Dobalová, Die Zitruskultur am Prager Hof unter Ferdinand I., Maximilian I. und Rudolf II., in Orangeriekultur in Österreich, Ungarn und Tschechien, Berlin (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 10), p. 113-126.

Die Frucht der Verheißung 2011: Die Frucht der Verheißung. Zitrusfrüchte in Kunst und Kultur, catalogue of the exhibition of the Germanischen Nationalmuseums (Nürnberg, May 19 to September 11, 2011), Nürnberg.

Gatz 1967: B. Gatz, Weltalter, goldene Zeit und sinnverwandte Vorstellungen, Hildesheim (Spudasmata, 16).

Gröschel 2010: C. Gröschel, Die Goldenen Äpfel der Medici. Ikonographische und etymologische Betrachtungen, in Goldorangen, Lorbeer und Palmen. Orangeriekultur vom 16. bis 19. Jahrhundert, Petersberg (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 6), p. 9-19.

Hamann 1996: H. Hamann, Villa Castello – Versailles – Sanssouci. Die Entwicklung der Orangerien in Deutschland, in C. Schiarend, M. Heilmeyer (eds.), Die Goldenen Äpfel. Wissenswertes rund um die Zitrusfrüchte, Berlin, p. 66-74.

Lietzmann 2007: H. Lietzmann, Irdische Paradiese. Beispiele höfischer Gartenkunst der 1. Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts, München-Berlin.

Martz 2015: J. Martz, Frühe Zitruskultur an der Wiener Hofburg, in Orangeriekultur in Österreich, Ungarn und Tschechien, Berlin (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 10), p. 9-24.

Mout 1998: N. Mout (ed.), Die Kultur des Humanismus. Reden, Briefe, Traktate, Gespräche von Petrarca bis Kepler, München.

Paulus 2005a: H.-E. Paulus, Orangerieträume in Thüringen, Regensburg.

Paulus 2005b: H.-E. Paulus, Pomeranzenstube – Pomeranzenhaus – Pomeranzengarten, in W. Paravicini (ed.), Höfe und Residenzen im spätmittelalterlichen Reich. Bilder und Begriffe, 2 vols., Ostfildern, p. 441-443.

Paulus 2007a: H.-E. Paulus, Zur Ikonologie des abschlagbaren Pomeranzenhauses des Prinzen Eugen in Wien, in Orangerien in Europa. Von fürstlichem Vermögen und gärtnerischer Kunst, München (ICOMOS. Hefte des Deutschen Nationalkomitees, 43), p. 13-23.

Paulus 2007b: H.-E. Paulus, Das Goldene Zeitalter und die Horen. Ein Beitrag zur Ausstattungsprogrammatik im Garten des 18. Jahrhunderts, in I. Formann, M. Karkosch (eds.), ‘Alles scheint Natur, so glücklich ist die Kunst versteckt’. Bernd Modrow zum 65. Geburtstag, München, p. 147-170.

Paulus 2009: H.-E. Paulus, Tempel und Garten der Flora. Die Orangerie Erlangen, Die Gartenkunst, 21, 2, p. 198-212.

Paulus 2011a: H.-E. Paulus, Das Bild der Orangerie in der Mitte Europas, vermittelt durch Architekturtraktate des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts, in Die Frucht der Verheißung 2011, p. 271-304.

Paulus 2011b: H.-E. Paulus, Das Goldene Zeitalter im Garten. Orangerie als inszenierte Allegorese, Die Gartenkunst, 23, 2, p. 195-204.

Paulus 2013: H.-E. Paulus, Die Orangerie von Schloss Friedenstein zu Gotha im historischen Kontext der europäischen Gartenkultur, in Orangeriekultur im Herzogtum Sachsen-Gotha, Petersberg (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 8), p. 81-116.

Paulus 2014: H.-E. Paulus, Das Goldene Zeitalter Roms als neuzeitliche Metapher, in Orangeriekultur in Österreich, Ungarn und Tschechien, Berlin (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 10), p. 193-208.

Paulus 2015: H.-E. Paulus, Teatro-Cavea-Orangerie, in Orangeriekultur in Sachsen, Berlin (Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Orangerien in Deutschland e. V., 12), p. 53-79.

Rigon 1989: F. Rigon, Das Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Milano.


1 On the transfer of orangery culture within Europe, in particular from Spain to Italy, see Paulus 2005a: 11-40; Lietzmann 2007.

2 On the myth of the “Golden Apples” see Die Frucht der Verheißung 2011.

3 For the term “humanism” see Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 3, 1974: 1218-1232.

4 For the term “reception” see Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 8, 1992: 996-1008.

5 From Thomas Aquinas, cited in Pseudo-Aristoteles, Liber de causis 9, ed. O. Bardenhewer, Freiburg, 1882 (repr. Frankfurt/Main, 1957): 174. See also Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 8, 1992: 1009-1014 (1010, notes 17 and 20).

6 On Cicero and his works: K. Büchner, Cicero, in Der kleine Pauly. Lexikon der Antike, München, 1975 (dtv Edition, 1979), 1: 1174-1186.

7 On Leonardo Bruni: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 3, 1974: 1231-1232 (Humanität); Mout 1998: 12 und 30.

8 For the humanist Opera see Paulus 2015. Confirmation of the term Opus in the inscriptions of the orangery of Weilburg, erected 1703/03. See Balsam 2014: 117.

9 Since the Middle Ages the disciplinae has comprised the philosophical artes liberales (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) as well as the artes mechanicae (including medicine and architecture) and the artes minores, comprising the fine arts. See Cassiodor: De artibus ac disciplinis liberalibus litterarum.

10 For the Golden Age see Paulus 2014.

11 On the significance of Virgil see K. Büchner, Vergilius, in Der kleine Pauly. Lexikon der Antike, München, 1975 (dtv Edition, 1979), 5: 1190-1200.

12 For the Accademia Olimpica in Vicenza see Rigon 1989.

13 Vergil, Bucolica 4, 1 sqq.; also in Aeneid I, 291-296 and VI, 791-805; furthermore Aeneid VIII, 314-325 and also Georgica 2, 532-540. On Virgil’s idea of return see Gatz 1967.

14 Leon Battista Alberti, Zehn Bücher über die Baukunst, book 9, chapter 4.

15 See note 1.

16 On citrus culture in Prague see Dobalová 2015. On the early citrus culture in Vienna see Martz 2015.

17 For orangery buildings and Pomeranzenstuben see Hamann 1996; Paulus 2005b; 2013.

18 On the significance of the Medici court see Gröschel 2010. On the Renaissance neo-Platonic philosophy and the Medici see Paulus 2014: 201-202.

19 On the relationship between myth and allegory see Paulus 2011a: 271-273 (“Der Mythos der goldenen Früchte – Metapher des Ewigen”).

20 For the Golden Age in the orangeries see note 8 and Paulus 2009; 2011b.

21 On the literature of Hesperides and the treatises on orangery architecture see Paulus 2011a.

22 On Salomon Kleiner and the lower Belvedere see Paulus 2007a; 2007b.


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