Theatre of Lemons or the Hercules Theatre

The Theatre of Hercules, also called Theatre of Lemons, owes its name to the presence of large and monumental lemon vases surrounding the space of the theatre, and also to the presence of a statue of the mythological hero of the same name. The theatre covers an area overlooking the south facade of the villa, which Giovanni Gianda helped design.

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It is still bordered today by plant hedges that draw screens of vegetation and create semicircles where sculptures and decorative elements are inserted. The most significant sculptural element is certainly that of Hercules, by which the hero is depicted as he completes one of his twelve labours, the killing of the Nemean lion. The group sculpture is placed on a base made up of rocks and detritus arranged in a random manner, although there are clear evidences of cuts of cubic blocks that have allowed its realization. On this base that narrows down, the dreaded Nemean lion tries to overpower the hero with a tragic last spasm of energy. The paw raised and his mouth wide open in a grimace of pain makes the viewer sense its imminent end. Hercules, however, is portrayed as a naked, mature man with powerful muscles, tightening his arms around the lion’s neck, and twisting his torso in the opposite direction to help, while a leg bends to force the animal’s body. This group sculpture is located in the centre of the cone of vision of the theatre while at the sides, surrounded by high hedges in the form of a labyrinth, a stone plinth peeks through with festoons and leonine masks holding up a large vase with anthropomorphic masks. On the other side is a low fountain just emerging from the ground, surrounded by the usual two-tone flooring of river pebbles.
In front of the southern fa├žade and at the statue of Hercules is a profusion of potted lemon and lime trees, decorated with coats of arms, garlands of ripe fruit and arabesques. Some pots, particularly the older ones, are now partially ruined, but transmits to us the idea of the splendour of this French, manicured parterre which could be accessed by coming through the low steps of the main courtyard.