Saturday, July 8, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Manuscripts - In an Enclosed Garden or Hortus Conclusus

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. 
One illumination of  female purity and piety was the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to a reading Virgin Mary, often shown in a hortus conclusus or enclosed garden from the Song of Songs. This owner of a 15C illuminated manuscript, Maria of Gueldern, was even depicted in this pose of reading in the garden with 2 attending angels, perhaps in anticipation of being blessed with children herself .

This painting copies those where the Virgin Mary begins to appear in contrived, formal gardens & in more natural cultural landscapes in the 1300s. One of the garden depictions is the hortus conclusus. Hortus conclusus is a Latin term, meaning "enclosed garden." Hortus conclusus is both an emblematic attribute & a title of the Virgin Mary in Medieval & Renaissance poetry & art, appearing in paintings & manuscript illuminations as well as a type of an actual garden form of the period which was enclosed both symbolically & actually.

The term hortus conclusus is derived from the Vulgate Bible's Canticle of Canticles (also called the Song of Songs or Song of Solomon) 4:12, in Latin: "Hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa, hortus conclusus, fons signatus" ("A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up.") This format provided a linguistic culture of Christendom, expressed in the Song of Songs as allegory where the image of King Solomon's nuptial song to his bride was reinterpreted as the love & union between Christ & the Church, the mystical marriage with the Church as the Bride of Christ. The verse "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee" from the Song expresses confirmation of the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception-birth without Original Sin ("macula" is Latin for spot).

Christian tradition asserts that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit to a young Mary miraculously without disrupting her virginity. As such, Mary in late medieval & Renaissance art, illustrating the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, was shown in or near a walled garden or yard. This was a representation of her Immaculate Conception, & also of her being protected, here by a wall & hedge, from sin.