Saturday, August 19, 2017

Off to Hunt in the Gamepark - Illuminated Manuscripts

August Très riches heures du Duc de Berry, 1412-16, by Pol and Hermann de Limbourg. Nobility riding out to hunt with falcons & dogs, while the harvest takes place & naked laborers bathe nearby

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - 15C Garden in Portrait Background

Illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens - real, symbolic, familiar, & imagined by artists & their clients during those periods. 

Unknown Flemish Master Madonna and Donor with Saint Mary Magdalene c 1475

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. The beds & the garden wall are particularly interesting.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Virgin in a Flowery Mead attributed to Piero di Cosimo (Italian artist, 1462-1521)

Attributed to Piero di Cosimo (Italian artist, 1462-1521) Adoration of the Child, c. 1490-1500. The Madonna & Child are placed in a small flowery mead among rocks.

A Mead is a medieval garden designed to imitate a small meadow or sometimes a larger, natural meadow. A Flowery Mead is a medieval term for a lawn rich in wild flowers. A flowery mead is often one of the essential components of a medieval garden. The flowery mead depicted is seldom within a distinct, geometric, larger garden.  


Albertus Magnus (c 1200-1280), a German Dominican friar & a Catholic bishop, was a great admirer of lawns & flowery meads "For the sight is in now way so pleasantly refreshed as by fine and close grass kept short." Most writers recommend digging out the original 'waste' plants, killing the seeds in the soil by flooding with boiling water, then laying out the lawn with curves laid in and pounded well. Another writer recommended mowing them twice a year; lawn mowing would have been done with scythes or primitive shears. 

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - 1475 The Virgin of the Rose Garden

Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy (fl 1480-1510 in Bruges) 1475-1480 Virgin of the Rose Garden at the Detroit Institute of Art

One of the many anonymous Flemish artists in the generation of Hans Memling has been identified as the Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy after a painting located in the church of St James in Bruges.  In the foreground of this painting the Virgin Mary & the Christ Child are seated with 4 female martyr-saints, Catherine, Barbara, Ursula, & Cecilia. The courtly entourage is placed within an enclosed garden lined with roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. The Virgin & her party sit in a small, enclosed garden before a hedge of red roses. The spot is sealed off from the remainder of the landscape by the thorny rose garden hedge, which grows out of a brick wall or garden bed. Mary is allegorically represented as a fortress. The city in the background has been identified as Bruges. Depictions of the city of Bruges in the background of several of his paintings record changes in the belfry, which was being remodeled from 1483 to c. 1502.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Virgin of the Rose Bush & Hortus Conclusus attributed to Stefan Lochner 1400-1451

Attributed to Stefan Lochner (German artist, 1400-1451) Madonna of the Rose Bush, ca 1440, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

Here the Virgin is depicted with roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. The rose is a symbol that has a complex symbolism and an ancient history. In the Christian religion, like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life. In Catholic symbolism, the red rose is a symbol of Martyrdom, while the white rose is a symbol of purity since the earliest years of the Church. The Virgin Mary is called a 'rose without thorns,' because she was exempt from Original Sin. In Renaissance art, a garland of roses is often an allusion to the Rosary of the Virgin. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - 15C Garden - Hortus Conclusus - The Virgin Mary

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of The Madonna and Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created.
1410 The Garden of Eden, a Hortus Conclusus Garden. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

Hortus conclusus is a Latin term, meaning literally "enclosed garden." The secluded garden, or ‘hortus conclusus’, was associated with the Virgin Mary usually in a monastery garden. Many images of medieval gardens are allegorical or metaphorical, rather than realistic representations of specific medieval gardens. 

Here the grass treated as a flowery mead planted with low growing wild flowers, sweet scented flowers, & more practical herbs. A Mead is a medieval garden designed to imitate a small meadow or sometimes a larger, natural meadow. A Flowery Mead is a medieval term for a lawn rich in wild flowers. A flowery mead is often one of the essential components of a medieval garden. The flowery mead depicted is seldom within a distinct, geometric, larger garden.  

Albertus Magnus (c 1200-1280), a German Dominican friar & a Catholic bishop, was a great admirer of lawns & flowery meads "For the sight is in now way so pleasantly refreshed as by fine and close grass kept short." Most writers recommend digging out the original 'waste' plants, killing the seeds in the soil by flooding with boiling water, then laying out the lawn with curves laid in and pounded well. Another writer recommended mowing them twice a year; lawn mowing would have been done with scythes or primitive shears. 

Birds share the space & fill the air with their songs. In this fantasy religious garden surrounded by a wall, the Virgin, the Child Jesus, 3 holy women & 3 holy men have met. This enclosed garden (hortus conclusus) is the symbol of the Virgin's purity, with its peaceful mood, its protected area, its fruits & flowers. The serpentine entwining of the 2 trunks of the trees on the left also reminds the viewer of the biblical Garden of Eden, the scene of the happy life of the 1st human couple before the temptation of Eve. 

The image of the hortus conclusus is intended to evoke the ancient, original, pre-sin harmony of the universe, of divine, human, animal & vegetable worlds. The Satan-monkey is squatting helplessly at St Michael's feet, while St George's dragon, very young & a little wimpy, seems to be basking in the sun, submissively turning his belly upwards. The crowns are golden garlands of flowers, & the left arm of St Cecilia holds a psaltery.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Virgin with Roses attributed to Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510

Sandro Botticelli (Italian artist, 1445-1510) Madonna and Child in a Niche Decorated with Roses

Here the Virgin is depicted with roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. The rose is a symbol that has a complex symbolism and an ancient history. In the Christian religion, like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life. In Catholic symbolism, the red rose is a symbol of Martyrdom, while the white rose is a symbol of purity since the earliest years of the Church. St. Ambrose relates how the rose came to have thorns. Before it became one of the flowers of the earth, the rose grew in Paradise without thorns. Only after the fall of man did the rose take on its thorns to remind man of the sins he had committed and his fall from grace; whereas its fragrance and beauty continued to remind him of the splendor of Paradise. It is probably in reference to this that the Virgin Mary is called a 'rose without thorns,' because she was exempt from Original Sin. In Renaissance art, a garland of roses is often an allusion to the Rosary of the Virgin. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Madonna & the Garden - Wheat & the Nativity

Gerard David (Flemish painter, 1460-1523) In this Panel from The Nativity, simple shepherds brought to the birth by angels gather outside the window, while other panels show Saints Jerome & Leonard & Donors. 1515

In early Christianity, wheat was often used as a symbol for Christ, based on John 6:41, in which Jesus identifies himself as “the bread come down from heaven.”  In this painting, wheat is in the foreground & serves as a bed for the newborn Baby. A strong link was made between wheat and the Nativity early in the history of Christianity, based on the symbolism of the Eucharist. The identification was founded in the interpretation of such scriptural passages as John 6:41, in which Jesus identifies himself as “the bread come down from heaven.” In his homily on the Nativity, Homilia VIII in die Natalis Domini, the 6C Doctor of the Church, Saint Gregory the Great, translated “Bethlehem” as “house of bread” and expounded the transformation of the Christ Child from hay into wheat. From human to Holy? The pictorial tradition of showing the infant Jesus lying on a heap of grain is found in representations of the Nativity from the end of the 15C.  Wheat also is used to suggest the bounty of the earth, and in relation to Holy Communion, it symbolizes the flour used to make the wafer Host for the Consecration at Holy Mass.

Adoration of the Shepherds with Jesus lying on Wheat by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622.

It is an ancient Hungarian custom to offer to Baby Jesus in the manger some green sprouts of wheat. Agriculture was the mainstay of most nations before the industrial revolution, and wheat was the symbol of sustenance and prosperity for the nation. The "new wheat" symbolizes the "new bread" in the natural order and also the "New Bread of Life" in the supernatural order; for it is from wheat that the altar bread is made which the Holy Eucharist, the bread of Christian's souls. The wheat seeds are planted on the day of St. Lucy (or Lucia), the virgin martyr, December 13th. Kept in a moderately warm room and watered daily, the plant reaches its full growth by Christmas. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Virgin with Roses attributed to Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510

Sandro Botticelli (Italian artist, 1445-1510) Madonna and Child Crowned by Angels amid Roses, detail 

Here the Virgin is depicted with roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. The rose is a symbol that has a complex symbolism and an ancient history. In the Christian religion, like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life. In Catholic symbolism, the red rose is a symbol of Martyrdom, while the white rose is a symbol of purity since the earliest years of the Church. The Virgin Mary is called a 'rose without thorns,' because she was exempt from Original Sin. In Renaissance art, a garland of roses is often an allusion to the Rosary of the Virgin. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Virgin with Roses attributed to Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino (active Florence, 2nd half of the 15C)

Attributed to Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino (active Florence, second half of the 15C) Madonna and Child with a Background of Roses

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. Here the Virgins before background screens of roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. The rose is a symbol that has a complex symbolism and an ancient history. In the Christian religion, like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life. In Catholic symbolism, the red rose is a symbol of Martyrdom, while the white rose is a symbol of purity since the earliest years of the Church. Virgin Mary is called a 'rose without thorns,' because she was exempt from Original Sin. In Renaissance art, a garland of roses is often an allusion to the Rosary of the Virgin. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Virgin with Roses attributed to Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510

Sandro Botticelli (Italian artist, 1445-1510) Madonna and Child with a young John the Baptist by Roses

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined, symbolic & real, during those periods. Here the Virgin is depicted with roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. The rose is a symbol that has a complex symbolism and an ancient history. In the Christian religion, like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life. In Catholic symbolism, the red rose is a symbol of Martyrdom, while the white rose is a symbol of purity since the earliest years of the Church. The Virgin Mary is called a 'rose without thorns,' because she was exempt from Original Sin. In Renaissance art, a garland of roses is often an allusion to the Rosary of the Virgin.