The 16th century gardens of the Villa d'Este are among the most ambitious of the Italian Renaissance. They are laid out as a series of terraces on a steeply sloping hillside beneath the villa, with a complex network of water channels supplying gallons of water to an elaborate range of architectural fountains, jets and pools. They were also decorated with Roman sculpture. It would no doubt be the reputation of these gardens that attracted the artist to make the journey from Rome, despite the neglect they had suffered during most of the 19th century. Although still of sufficient note to have been the source for engravings by Piranesi in the 1730s, the gardens and villa began to deteriorate in the 18th century. In 1797, the property passed by bequest to Maria Beatrice, the wife of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and was virtually abandoned, the first serious attempt at restoration not initiated until 1850. Later, between 1865 and his death in 1886, Franz Liszt occupied an apartment at the top of the villa.
When Girault de Prangey visited Tivoli in 1842 it must surely have been difficult to imagine the former splendour of the gardens, but it seems possible this visit may have had great influence on subsequent designs for his own, more modest, gardens. Following his travels in the 1840s, Girault de Prangey greatly altered his villa at Courcelles, extending the house itself and working on elaborate plans for the garden. Here, he introduced glasshouses for the cultivation of exotic plants and created a series of terraces and water features. In his extant drawings and photographs one sees the villa situated towards the top of the hillside, with the gardens dropping steeply in front.
In this panorama, Girault de Prangey shows the villa in the context of Tivoli, indicating the commanding position of the villa itself at the top of the hill. The cypress trees in the gardens are visible beneath the villa.
This daguerreotype and the tree study in the previous lot, are the only two panoramic views from Tivoli in the photographer's archive.