The 500th anniversary of Vicino Orsini, the patron of the Bosco di Bomarzo: a summer of events

The town of Bomarzo remembers Vicino Orsini, the patron of the incredible Sacred Wood of Bomarzo, on the 500th anniversary of his birth: a summer of events to celebrate the occasion.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of Pierfrancesco Orsini, known as Vicino (Rome, July 4, 1523 - Bomarzo, Jan. 28, 1585), lord of Bomarzo, to whom we owe the Sacred Wood of Bomarzo, one of the masterpieces of Mannerist art (we also dedicated a lengthy article to Vicino Orsini in our quarterly paper). And to celebrate the occasion, the town of Bomarzo is preparing for two months of events.

In fact, to celebrate and promote the event through cultural events, the city administration in March 2022 issued a public notice for the realization of a cultural project. ST Sinergie srl, a marketing and communication company, was awarded the notice with the project Nel segno di Vicino (In the sign of Vicino), a series of cultural events on the figure of the lord of Bomarzo 500 years after his birth, with the intent to contribute significantly to the growth of the socioeconomic fabric of the area, through the promotion of historical identity considered to be the basis of development, both for tourism and for local businesses.

But who was Vicino Orsini? He was born to Gian Corrado Orsini, lord of Bomarzo, of the Mugnano branch, and Clarice Orsini, daughter of Cardinal Franciotto, lord of Monterotondo: there is no information about his childhood, while the phase of his maturity, which saw him rule Bomarzo from 1542 to his death, is better known. He is best known as the commissioner of the Sacro Bosco, a monumental complex of sculptures and fountains that set it apart from gardens (such as Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Villa Lante in Bagnaia or that of Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola) made nearby by other lords. Vicino Orsini in Bomarzo habitually lived in the palace of the same name, whose design had been commissioned by his father in 1519 from the great architect Baldassarre Peruzzi. On January 11, 1545, in the Castle of Giove (Terni) he married the love of his life, Giulia Farnese, strengthening relations with the Farnese family. Of the Sacred Wood, which he dedicated to his late wife, neither the iconography nor the cultural context that inspired its design are yet fully understood. The contacts with numerous artists attending the Medici court, the vision of Michelangelo’s works, the references to classical mythology, the acquisition of the humanist thought of Giulio Camillo Delminio, who precisely in Vicino’s period spread a particular archetype of the Theater understood as a scenery of life, all this, permeated by an aura of mystery and esotericism, led Vicino Orsini to plan the famous artistic complex, whose extravagance and originality are known today throughout the world.

For about four centuries no one thought of the Sacred Wood again, but the early rediscovery of the Orsini garden is due to Count Domenico Gnoli, a poet and university lecturer later Director of the National Library in Rome, author in 1913 of an article on the wonders of Bomarzo. In 1928 a book by Rose Nichols, in which the Boschetto is described, was given to the press, and in 1935 the text by Georges Loukomski, dealing with the statues and fountains of Bomarzo, Soriano and Caprarola. In 1949 journalist Mario Praz wrote two articles on the Sacred Grove and its creator Vicino Orsini: one for Il Tempo and the other for La Nazione and another in 1953 for the magazine L’illustrazione italiana. The growth of interest in Orsini’s works in Bomarzo still saw, in the last decades of the twentieth century, art historians and architects such as Maurizio Calvesi, Arnaldo Bruschi, Horst Bredekamp, Wolfram Janzer, and Sabine Frommel, carry out investigations and render, through their publications, a more articulate and richer picture of questions and answers that the artistic complex arouses, but also the public, intrigued by the singular figure of the lord of Bomarzo, began to frequent these pleasant places. The park has also been a source of inspiration for artists such as Claude Lorrain, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jean Cocteau, Niki de Saint Phalle and Salvador Dalí, who visited it in 1938. In 1949 Michelangelo Antonioni dedicated a documentary film to it, The Villa of Monsters. Also dedicated to the park are the best-selling Bomarzo (1962) by Argentine Manuel Mujica-Lainez and its operatic re-adaptation composed by compatriot Alberto Ginastera (1967); not forgetting villas, gardens, paintings, poems, architecture and even amusement parks of contemporary times that mention more or less ironically the garden of Vicino Orsini, repeating its particularly evocative details, shapes or inscriptions (it is even thought that Gaudi himself was influenced by the alleged vision of Bomarzo, as suggested by the many monstrous figures in his fantastic architecture). Internationally renowned authors have devoted a long series of studies to this masterpiece, but so many questions about its meaning remain unanswered. The garden represents a total work of art, a distinctly original exemplum where nature, architecture, sculpture and poetry come together in a bizarre, fantastic and poetic whole.

The beauty of the surrounding area has been appreciated and enhanced by famous cultural figures, including Pier Paolo Pasolini, who in 1970 bought the ruin of the Tower of Chia, building a residence behind it, totally invisible from the outside, characterized by large windows that project onto a rich and evocative landscape.

The events

In Bomarzo the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Vicino Orsini, the noble Lord from whose imagination took shape the Sacred Wood of Bomarzo and the gigantic stone figures that still fascinate and attract visitors from all over the world. A year that will therefore be “in the sign of Vicino.” The review initiated by the Municipality of Bomarzo started last year and touches multiple areas: history, art, food and wine, crafts, music, sports. And so much more. The goal is twofold: to pay tribute to the figure of Vicino Orsini and at the same time to promote the excellence of the area, thus creating a driving force for development. Organization and artistic direction of the project are by the company ST Sinergie srl, which specializes in marketing and communication. Below is the program:

  • May 6 to July 31, 2023 photo exhibition with Marco Paolini’s signature shots of the myth of Vicino and the territory of Bomarzo in the halls of Palazzo Orsini (free admission);
  • May 21, 2023 from 6 p.m. at Palazzo Orsini “Echoes,” action painting performance by artist WELT (@welt_art_official) and video projections by Project Tuscia (@projecttuscia) with live music;
  • June 1 to July 31, 2023 “Art inspired by Vicino”: staging of an exhibition through the reproduction of artworks, videos and publications inspired by Vicino Orsini’s art;
  • June 10, 2023 at Orsini Palace the Esiodos Trio in concert (Massimo Coco, violin; Marco Simonacci, cello; Giulio De Luca, piano). Music: Pyotr Il’ič Tchaikovsky, Alberto Ginastera, Astor Piazzolla;
  • June 11, 2023 extraordinary nighttime opening Sacro Bosco reserved for residents;
  • June 17, 2023 presentation of the “Vicino jewel” made for the occasion by Lino Perinelli, a goldsmith artisan from Bomarzo, following historical research of the jewelry of the time;
  • June 24, 2023 fashion show and presentation inside the Sacred Wood of the Renaissance dresses and costumes “Vicino Orsini and his Court” made by fashion designer Ilaria Sforza Petrocochino;
  • July 1, 2023 at Orsini Palace presentation of the book “Vicino Orsini...poet, patron and man of arms.”
  • July 4, 2023 historical re-enactments starting at 6 pm and at midnight fireworks show. During the evening minting of the “viciniana coin” and presentation of the “Vicino Orsini 500” cake.

The website is also online : the portal contains articles, photos, videos, insights into the life and works of Vicino Orsini, the history of Bomarzo, the main attractions of the area, and traditions. From the site it is possible to consult news about appointments that have already taken place and upcoming events. In addition, there is information on restaurants where you can eat and farms where you can do tastings and buy typical products, as well as addresses for staying (bed and breakfasts, farmhouses, vacation homes). “In the sign of Vicino” also has its own Facebook and Instagram page with updated news and lots of interesting facts.

The 500th anniversary of Vicino Orsini, the patron of the Bosco di Bomarzo: a summer of events
The 500th anniversary of Vicino Orsini, the patron of the Bosco di Bomarzo: a summer of events

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