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15 October 2019Gilding the Lily: The Gardens of Florence
17 September 2019Edith Cavell Remembered
18 June 2019Annual General Meeting followed by The Imperial Easter Eggs of Carl Fabergé - After the Revolution
21 May 2019The Fascinating World of Playing Cards
16 April 2019Shaken by an Earthquake - Igor Stravinsky, the Ballets Russes and the astonishing 1913 premier of the Rite of Spring
19 March 2019The Magnificent Maya-Fact and Fantasy
19 February 2019Hidden Canvasses: Street Art and the City
15 January 2019Norfolk's Power Houses: Raynham, Houghton, Wolterton and Holkham
20 November 2018Tribal Rugs: 'Treasures of the Black Tent' 19th Century Rugs & Weavings of the Persian & Central Asian Tribes
16 October 2018La Mortella: Sir William and Lady Walton's Italian Garden Paradise
18 September 2018A Photographic Odyssey: Shackleton's Endurance Expedition Captured on Camera
19 June 2018Annual General Meeting followed by Velazquez - The Great Magician of Art
15 May 2018The Most Infamous Family In History: The Borgias
17 April 2018Sutton Hoo and the Golden Age of Old England
20 March 2018Mars and Muses - The Renaissance Art of Armour
20 February 2018Things that go Bump in the night - why medieval buildings fall down
16 January 2018The History of the English Garden
21 November 2017The Glasgow Girls - Women in Art and Design in Glasgow 1890-1920
17 October 2017A Portrait of Lord Nelson
19 September 2017Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion (The history of Magic through Art and Pictures)
20 June 2017AGM followed by Music and Instruments at the Tudor Courts
16 May 2017A Galaxy of Starchitects
18 April 2017The Interiors of Jane Austen's Heroines
21 March 2017Perdita Robinson: Actress, Poet and Fashion Icon
21 February 2017Beneath the City Streets - London's Unseen History
17 January 2017The Art of Piero della Francesca
15 November 2016The Honourable East India Company and East-West Trade: Chintz, Chinese Export and Chinoiserie 1600-1800
18 October 2016England's Golden Age of Cabinet Making
20 September 2016Absolutely Classic! Neoclassicism in Regency England
21 June 2016AGM followed by Riviera Paradise: Art, Design and Pleasure in the 1920's and '30s

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Gilding the Lily: The Gardens of Florence Steven Desmond Tuesday 15 October 2019

In 1900 Florence had a foreign resident population of 30,000. Among these were many British and American aesthetes, attracted by the climate, the scenery, the art and the realisation that Renaissance villas and their gardens, no longer required by their ancestral owners, could be rented cheaply, complete with willing servants. E.M. Forster’s Lady Helen Laverstock, in her Fiesole villa garden thought to be the setting of the Decameron, is only just fictional: Lady Sybil Cutting was just then busy improving the terraced garden of Lorenzo the Magnificent’s 15th-century Villa Medici to bring it more into line with her idea of how it should have been. At Villa La Pietra, the informal English garden laid out by its 19th-century Italian owners was being remodelled by the British art dealer Arthur Acton into an ideal of the 17th-century Italian garden, financed by his rich American wife’s inheritance. And nearby, Bernard Berenson, arbiter of taste for the world’s museums and collectors, hired the architect Cecil Pinsent to transform the gardens of his ancient villa into the kind of terraces of mosaic, box and cypress he felt were appropriate. And so it went on. All these gardens and others look out to this day over the famous view of Florence and the Arno valley, ringed by hills, villas, olive groves and the dreamy mists of antiquity.