The Garden of Love c. 1465. Master E. S. (German). engraving. With chess-players, 3 couples assembled in a garden, enclosed by a fence; one lover to the right is depicted as a jester.
Beginning in 15C Italy & in Northern Europe, images of The Garden of Love appear in secular art depicting courtly love. The Garden of Love is often a landscape with a flowery meadow, a grove, & a fountain, where lovers gather to meet, eat, sing, dance, & make love. The Garden of Love, a literary theme in poetry of classical antiquity & the Middle Ages, was usually portrayed as an idyllic realm of courtly love - music, feasting, & games where ladies inspired dedicated service from their admirers. Much like the medieval Hortus Conclusus, an enclosed monastery garden usually a symbol of the Virgin Mary represented as a fortress in a religious allegory, the Garden of Love was also usually enclosed, secluded, & ordered but a world apart from the guilt of Christian religious symbolism.
An enclosed medieval Hortus Conclusus located at royal palaces & grand manor houses usually represented a garden of earthly delights. Both the secular & the religious gardens could be enclosed by formidable high brick or stone wall, but sometimes a wicker fence or a wooden trellis. Both gardens would probably be filled with scented flowers & herbs. Most Gardens of Love have a flowing fountain, sometimes octagonal, often located in the garden center. In classical myth, a fountain traditionally belongs to the god of love. Often Cupid is included in the fountain design or is a carving beside it aiming arrows at the elites gathering & playing in The Garden of Love.
The well-born needed leisure time to indulge in exploring love in an atmosphere where religious transgression was encouraged. Passing time; the constraints of religious & secular law; & infirmity & death existed only outside the wall of The Garden of Love which seemed to be unending spring. The Garden of Love could reflect earlier classical & religious investigations of the nature of love. The Garden of Love in European art declined during the late 15C. However, The Garden of Love tradition was continued only occasionally later by Titian (fl 1506-1576) in the 16C; by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) in the 17C; & by Watteau (1684–1721) in the 18C.