Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. Many images of medieval gardens are allegorical or metaphorical, rather than realistic representations of specific medieval gardens. The Virgin Mary begins to appear in both contrived, formal gardens & in more natural cultural landscape images in the 1300s.The Madonna of the Rose Garden St. with Catherine of Alexandria (Madonna del Roseto) is attributed to Michelino da Besozzo or Stefano da Verona. Dating to c. 1420–1435. Castelvecchio Museum of Verona.
Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. The theme of the Virgin in a garden can be found in the Biblical book Song of Solomon 2:2: I am the Rose of Sharon, The lily of the valleys. As a lily among the thistles, So is my beloved among girls. And from Solomon 4:12: A garden locked is my sister, my bride, A rock garden locked, a spring sealed up
Mary was often depicted as a symbol of wisdom, & she was represented in many paintings with an open book. The Biblical book of Ecclesiasticus 24:14, also refers to roses & palm trees (with which the virgin is sometimes associated): I have grown tall as a palm in En-Gedi, As the rose bushes of Jericho. Sometimes Mary was called "The Rose of Jericho."
Here Mary sits within an enclosed garden lined with roses, suggesting metaphorical associations with the paradise bower of the Song of Songs. In this work, the Virgin, seated on the ground to indicate her humility. Madonna of Humility refers to artistic portrayals of a humble Virgin Mary depicting her sitting on the ground, or sitting upon a low cushion. Humility was a virtue extolled by Saint Francis of Assisi, and this style of image was a favorite of Franciscan piety. The word humility, from the Latin humus, meaning earth or ground (humus = humilitas.) One of the most popular visual representations of the Virgin toward the end of the Middle Ages is the image of Mary as the Virgin of Humility. An early image in this style is the fresco of Simone Martini painted v. 1335-40 above the door under the west porch of the Cathedral of Avignon. The fresco shows the Virgin holding the child Jesus in her arms, sitting on the ground. This theme emerges at a period in the history of Christianity, when negative religious connotations of the earth faded replaced by the concept of nature as a creative force.
The painting shows the traditional theme of the Madonna with Child within an enclosure of roses, a hortus conclusus, symbol of her virginity, in the presence of St. Catherine of Alexandria. The latter, as a princess, is crowned, & is accompanied by her martyrdom at the torture wheel. There are also numerous angels. They are performing a series of activities: reading; collecting petals of rose; playing near a Gothic font (symbolizing the definition of Mary as Fons gratiae, "Spring of Grace"). Two peacocks are roaming in the garden: they are a symbol of the immortality of Christ since early Christian times, when their flesh was considered not liable to rot.