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James, “From a Roman Note-Book”
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Villa Medici, Rome
Patrons: Ricci, Giovanni, 1497–1564;
Ferdinand I de’, 1549–1609
Designers: Ammannati, Bartolommeo, 1511–1592;
Nanni di Baccio Bigio, d.c. 1568; garden facade Probably by Giacomo Della Porta (Italian, 1532 -1602 )
Location: Europe — Italy — Lazio — Rome
The Villa Medici, Rome is located on the Pincian Hill at the top of the Spanish Steps. Since the end of the Roman Republic the Pincian Hill has been famous for its ornamental gardens. The villa occupies part of the site that once boasted the gardens of Lucullus and later the Acilii. In 1543, Cardinal Crescenzi purchased the villa, during which time it consisted mostly of vineyards. In 1564, his heirs sold the villa to Cardinal Giovanni Ricci di Montpulciano who did much to develop the gardens and increase the water supply. He hired Nanni di Baccio Bigio, to carry out the major portion of this project until Ricci’s death in 1568, at which time it is probable (though not documented) that Nanni's son Annibale Lippi completed the work by 1569. Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici bought the villa in 1576, turning it into one of the most lavish villa in Rome with the assistance of his architect Bartolomeo Ammannati. In keeping with its more public function, the front of the villa is very formal and has often been compared to a fortress. The garden facade of the villa, however, is much less formal and highly ornamented and may have been redesigned by Giacomo della Porta to accommodate the sculpture collection purchased by Medici in 1578. The French purchased the villa directly from the Tuscan state in 1801 and it has been home to the French Academy since 1803.