Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. Beginning in the early 1600s, Jesus was less often depicted as a gardener in Noli Me Tangere paintings.
Noli me tangere, meaning "touch me not" is the Latin version of words spoken, according to John 20:17, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene, when she recognized him after his Easter resurrection. The story relates that Mary Magdalene, alone, goes to the tomb to anoint the body of her teacher and prepare it for burial. As she finds the tomb empty, flanked by two angels , she breaks down, imploring to be told where the body has been taken. She turns around, and Jesus is standing behind her, but she does not recognize him. The text reads, "supposing him to be the gardener..." she answers his question about why she is weeping. It is only when he calls her by name, that she knows who he is.
Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1337). Resurrection Noli me tangere North wall of Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua. 1305-1306
1368-70, Probably by Jacopo di Cione Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a hoe.
"Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)
13C Fresco in Lower Basilica in Assisi
The biblical scene of Mary Magdalene's recognizing Jesus Christ after his Easter resurrection became the subject of a long, widespread iconographic tradition in Christian art from late antiquity forward.
1400s Fra Angelico (1395-1455) Noli Me Tangere. Fresco Depicted at the tomb & in a garden where grass is treated as a flowery mead planted with low growing wild flowers. Christ is depicted as a gardener.
Dr Kayleen Asbo of California, explains that John was a great storyteller who creates a sense of symmetry in his gospel so that, in the words of TS Eliot, at the end we "arrive where we have started & know it for the first time." With his image of Jesus as a gardener, John returns us to the 1st chapter of the Bible. Genesis opens with the creation of humanity in the garden of Eden & mankind's expulsion from Paradise with the subsequent onslaught of death & suffering . Here Jesus is the gardener, the master gardener. As such, his role is to build a new garden, a new Eden. The garden which Jesus plants is the seeds of love & forgiveness inside each human heart which will bear the fruit of joy & perhaps even, peace in the world, & bring man to union with the divine.
1460 The Meister des Göttinger Barfüßeraltars Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel.
1460-1500 Master of the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (German; 1460 - 1470; fl. c.) Christ appearing as a gardener to St Mary Magdalene within a garden with wattle fencing. Jesus holds a shovel.
Noli me tangere in Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, 1469, Lieven van Lathem. J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 37, fol. 46v
Martin Schongauer German, c. 1450-1491. Noli me tangere
1473 Martin Schongauer (1450–1491) Noli Me Tangere. This painting is also depicted in a garden. This garden appears to be enclosed with a wattle fence, and roses grow in the background. Birds perch in the trees.
1500 by Master of the Chronique scandaleuse, illuminator (French, active about 1493 - 1510), Noli me tangere, French
1500s Greek Icon Μη μου άπτου Crete Resurrection Noli me tangere
1506 Fra Bartolomeo (1472–1517) Noli Me Tangere. Depicted at the tomb with Christ appearing as a gardener.
1526 Hans Holbein the Younger (1498–1543) Noli Me Tangere. Depicted at the tomb.
1534 Antonio da Correggio (1489-1534) Noli Me Tangere. Christ appears as a gardener holding a hoe.
1548-53 Lambert Sustris (Dutch artist, c.1515-1520-c.1584) Noli Me Tangere This image because of the unusual formal gardens used as the background for a Biblical scene. These gardens are primarily from the Italian Renaisance. The trellis walkways & arbors were built to provide both shade & privacy. Planners raised beds to prevent plants becoming waterlogged. Gardens were used for recreation, relaxation, & sport. The garden consists of geometric beds of interlacing patterns designed to be seen from windows & hills above & is filled with herbs & favorite flowers. A fountain sits in the farthest parterre. Statues & symbolic ornaments are spread throughout the grounds.
1560-70 Unknown German artist. Christ appears here as a gardener to Mary Magdalene; part of a town beyond the garden & three crosses on the hill behind at left. Jesus holds a shovel.
1561 Agnolo di Cosimo (called Bronzino) (1503 - 1572) Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel.
1581 Lavinia Fontana Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel.1620 Abraham Janssens (1567–1632) painted figures & Jan Wildens (15841586–1653) painted the landscape Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel.