Natsumi Nonaka

Natsumi Nonaka

Florence Gould Fellow
Arboreal Renaissance: Treed Landscapes in Early Modern Italy, 1550-1700
Natsumi Nonaka


Natsumi Nonaka is an art historian whose work concerns built forms and designed landscapes, antiquarianism and the classical tradition, the study of nature and the classification of knowledge, transcultural encounters and cross-fertilization of artistic forms and ideas, and the relationship of humans and nature in the broader environment. She holds a PhD in Architectural History from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research has been supported by Dumbarton Oaks and she has served on the scientific committee for the international conference, “Encager le ciel” (Villa Medici, Rome, February 2020). Her publications include Renaissance Porticoes and Painted Pergolas (2017) and “Verdant Architecture and Tripartite Chorography” (2019).


Project Summary

This project explores the practice and theory of the use of trees in cultural landscapes in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy. The proliferation of systematic tree-planting schemes in gardens, cities, and the countryside, in Rome, Florence, and Lucca among other Italian cities, and in parallel with France, invites a systematic investigation. The early modern phase of the cultural phenomenon of tree-planting, the “Arboreal Renaissance” as it were, requires a multifaceted approach considering private gardens and public parks, urban streets and rural highways, and sylvan landscape and infrastructure in the broader environment all within the same perspective. These tree-planting schemes had more than practical and aesthetic implications; they emerged alongside an intensifying interest in the spiritual power of nature as well as an embryonic understanding of the environmental benefits of trees. The methodology will be multidisciplinary, examining on the one hand visual materials such as maps and vedute, and drawings both artistic and practical; and on the other hand archival materials and a wide range of texts – theoretical writings on villas, gardens, architecture, urbanism, agriculture, dendrology, forestry, and nature in general, as well as engineering, political philosophy, and statecraft. The project also seeks to show how the study of the Renaissance could directly inform contemporary thinking on the relationship between humanity and nature and the environment.