Friday, March 2, 2012

The house of Achelous

Grottoes were all the rage in 16th Century Italy, and humanists of the time turned to Ovid for the loci classici.

The cave of Achelous in Book 8 is clearly one such scene, where the river god offers Theseus and his companions hospitality:
[Theseus] entered the dark building, made of spongy pumice, and rough tufa. The floor was moist with soft moss, and the ceiling banded with freshwater mussel and oyster shells.
Another is the grotto of Diana in Book III:
There was a valley there called Gargaphie, dense with pine trees and sharp cypresses, sacred to Diana of the high-girded tunic, where, in the depths, there is a wooded cave, not fashioned by art. But ingenious nature had imitated art. She had made a natural arch out of living pumice (pumice vivo) and porous tufa. On the right, a spring of bright clear water murmured into a widening pool, enclosed by grassy banks. Here the woodland goddess, weary from the chase, would bathe her virgin limbs in the crystal liquid. Kline.
Vallis erat piceis et acuta densa cupressu,
nomine Gargaphie, succinctae sacra Dianae.
Cuius in extremo est antrum nemorale recessu,
arte laboratum nulla: simulaverat artemingenio natura suo; nam pumice vivo                          160
et levibus tofis nativum duxerat arcum.
Fons sonat a dextra, tenui perlucidus unda,
margine gramineo patulos succinctus hiatus.
Hic dea silvarum venatu fessa solebatvirgineos artus liquido perfundere rore. III.156 ff
This is the arched grotto and pool where Actaeon met his fate.

A grotto of Diana was included in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli:

Villa d'Este pools, fountains gardens

Ovid hints that when one creates a cave of tufa and pumice, one imitates nature imitating art.

Grotte du Grand Roc, Dordogne

Mono Lake, CA

More Italian grottoes:

Grotto of Boboli Gardens, Firenze

Im park der Villa d'Este, Carl Blechen

More images of Italian fountains, some by Bernini, can be found here.

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