Monday, June 19, 2017

15C Garden offering Choices of Lifestyles

The Nature Garden of Conty Évrard. The Book of Chess Lovers. Evrard Conty, Cognac, c 1496-1499. BNF, Manuscripts, French 143, f. 198 v o.

The Book of Chess Lovers, as is the famous manuscript Roman de la Rose, is structured as an allegory suggesting that the type of garden one chooses to enter is a lifestyle choice. As literary settings, gardens of this period were idyllic spaces where lovers met, courtiers retreated from city life, & adventurers sought an earthly paradise. Nature's Garden (depicted in the foreground) includes, inside high walls, 3 gardens representing ways to live that are available to man. The Garden of Pallas (Minerva), guarded by Religion (background) represents the contemplative life. The Garden of of Juno, guarded by Wealth (left), suggests the active, commercial life. The final garden, the Garden of Voluptuous Life, is guarded by a naked woman at an idle door admiring herself in a hand mirror. The narrator of The Book of Chess Lovers is about to turn toward the Voluptuous garden. "All the young people of the world would have done the same," declares Évrard Conty.  (And it is a big dog vs little dog world here as well.)