[[File:1165.jpg|thumb|left|Fig. 3, William Williams, ''Deborah Hall'', 1766.]]
[[File:1675.jpg|thumb|Fig. 4, Anonymous, Vignette of contrasting garden styles, in [[A. J. Downing]], ''A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening'', 4th ed. (1849), 17. Separated by a centrally placed tree, this prospect depicts the characteristic differences between the geometrically defined "ancient style" on the left and the loosely arranged plantings of the “[[Modern_style/Natural_style|modern style]]” on the right.]]
This category of garden style was generally described in relation or in contrast to a [[modern style]], a dualism continuing the traditional argument of the ancient versus the modern that had characterized intellectual debate since the 17th century.<ref>Joseph M. Levine, “John Evelyn: Between the Ancients and the Moderns,” in ''John Evelyn’s “Elysium Britannicum” and European Gardening'', ed. T. O’Malley and J. Wolschke-Bulmahn (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1998), 57–78, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/3CHBXD8V view on Zotero].</ref> In late 18th- and early 19th-century garden theory, landscape art was divided into one or the other general category. [[Andrew Jackson Downing|A. J. Downing’s]] ''A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening'' (1849) opens with a vignette illustrating these two modes [Fig. 4]. The geometric and regular gardens associated with premodern styles, such as the Dutch, French, and Italian [Fig. 5], became foils for the newer, irregular styles of the [[picturesque]] movement. When [[Benjamin Henry Latrobe]] visited [[Mount Vernon]], he sketched it from vantage points that emphasized its natural [[park]]-like setting. However, he criticized the [[parterre]]s of the Upper Garden, which were designed in an ancient geometric mode “laid out in [[square]], and boxed with great precision. . . . For the first time since I left Germany, I saw here a [[parterre]], chipped and trimmed with infinite care into the form of a richly flourished Fleur de Lis: The expiring groans I hope of our Grandfather[s’] pedantry.”<ref>[[Benjamin Henry Latrobe]], ''The Virginia Journals of [[Benjamin Henry Latrobe]], 1795–1798'', 2 vols., ed. Edward C. Carter II (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), 1:165 [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/SZEEBG9K view on Zotero].</ref> At the end of the 18th century, the ancient style was seen as retarditaire in the face of the emerging and more fashionable [[modern style]].
[[File:1686.jpg|thumb|Fig. 5, James Smillie after a sketch by A. O. Moore, “Italian Garden and [[Lake]] at Wellesley near Boston,” in [[A. J. Downing]], ''A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening'', 4th ed. (1849), pl. opp. 452.]]
The association of the American political system with the democracy of ancient Greece or republican Rome was a frequent argument for the appropriateness of the neoclassical over the romantic style in public or governmental projects during the early national era.<ref>See William H. Pierson Jr., ''American Buildings and Their Architects: Technology and the Picturesque, the Corporate and the Early Gothic Styles'' (New York: Doubleday, 1978), 8, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/J8FITVZG view on Zotero].</ref> For this reason it seems that in spite of the fashion for the natural or irregular garden style, the “old and formal style of design” never disappeared.<ref>A. J. Downing, “The State and Prospects of Horticulture,” ''Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste'' 6, no. 12 (December 1851): 540, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/XR68IJEG/q/state%20and%20prospects view on Zotero].</ref> In fact, according to a writer in the ''Horticulturist'' in 1852, it remained the predominant style throughout “Yankeedom.” Even [[A. J. Downing|Downing]], the chief exponent of the [[modern style]] in America, employed the ancient or [[geometric style]] for portions of his design for the [[National Mall]] in Washington, DC.<ref> See Therese O’Malley, “Picturesque Plan for the Mall,” in ''The Mall in Washington, 1791–1991'', ed. Richard Longstreth (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1991), 61–78, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/9ACAMFXP view on Zotero].</ref>
<span id="Downing_citeDowning_1849_cite"></span>In his description of “Plantations in the Ancient Style,” [[A. J. Downing|Downing]] contributed a political valence to the history of the style when he wrote that “symmetrical uniformity governed with despotic power even the trees and foliage” ([[#Downing_1849|view text]]). This interpretation of the neoclassical styles in garden and architectural design might explain why [[A. J. Downing|Downing]] declared it expressive of power and therefore appropriate for public edifices and their immediate grounds. Despite his preference for the [[modern style]], [[A. J. Downing|Downing]] justified the ancient style in America, writing that its distinct artifice would give more pleasure by contrast to the surrounding landscape, which, in America, was abounding with natural beauty.<ref>Downing 1849, 92, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/K7BRCDC5 view on Zotero].</ref> Both [[A. J. Downing|Downing]] and his predecessor, [[J. C. Loudon]], sought to highlight the hand of the artist seen in contrasting designed or improved scenery with the natural appearance of a given site. Thus the ancient style survived the overwhelming preference or taste for the [[modern style]].
—''Therese O’Malley''

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