Italians were at the forefront of garden design during the 17th century and Velazquez would have witnessed some of the finest exponents of this form of creativity whilst visiting the wealthy Medici family in Rome. This was a nation that was still fairly fragmented, essentially just a collection of provinces as opposed to the united nation that we see today. The Medici rule was amongst the most significant at that time and this was a family who held a strong passion for the arts. They would spend time in the company of the great artists of their period as well as consistently serve as generous patrons in pursuit of the finest artists and architects to lift the cultural wealth of their homes and civil buildings. They would tend to work with native Italians normally, but also welcomed Velazquez for an extended period during which he completed several paintings.
We find several figures standing in the foreground of this courtyard, with a large archway behind them which is separated by several tall pillars. The nearest foreground is dominated by trees which overhang our view, whilst behind the property an open expanse of land can be seen, with traditional poplars that are normally more associated with the region of Tuscany. The overall theme is certainly a departure from the norm for this artist, who is better known to different types of portraits. He may have been enjoying his stay here, and wished to record it in this way. It will also have been a huge honour for him to have spent time here, in the presence of such a powerful family. We do know that this artwork was created during his first trip to Italy, an excursion that would actually last for around a year in total.
Records suggest that Velazquez would later sell some of the artworks that he produced on this trip to Phillip IV in 1634. This was also an important trip for the artist who was still particularly young at this point and his work and study within Italy would help his development in future decades. It would also push the genre of landscape painting further within his career, where normally we only really think about him as a portrait painter. This painting can now be found at the Prado Museum in Madrid, alongside a number of other paintings from his career, including, most notably, Las Meninas. The institution itself remains perhaps the best place to go for those looking to understand and appreciate the merits of Spanish art, particularly for the periods between the Renaissance up to the 19th century.