Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - Madonna of Humility in a Garden attributed to Gentile da Fabriano c 1370-1427

Illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens - real, symbolic, familiar, & imagined by artists & their clients during those periods. 

Gentile da Fabriano original name Niccolo Di Giovanni Di Massio (Italian artist, c 1370-1427) Virgin and Child with Sts Nicholas and Catherine

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. Here is the early Madonna in a flowery mead of wildflowers with a more formal backdrop. Angels are blooms on the trees. 

A Mead is a medieval garden designed to imitate a small meadow or sometimes a larger, natural meadow. A Flowery Mead is a medieval term for a lawn rich in wild flowers. A flowery mead is often one of the essential components of a medieval garden. The flowery mead depicted is seldom within a distinct, geometric, larger garden.  Albertus Magnus (c 1200-1280), a German Dominican friar & a Catholic bishop, was a great admirer of lawns & flowery meads "For the sight is in now way so pleasantly refreshed as by fine and close grass kept short." Most writers recommend digging out the original 'waste' plants, killing the seeds in the soil by flooding with boiling water, then laying out the lawn with curves laid in and pounded well. Another writer recommended mowing them twice a year; lawn mowing would have been done with scythes or primitive shears. 

Illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during those periods. One theme traditionally associated with the Madonna is the Madonna of 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 earliest surviving works of this particular portrayal of the Virgin are found in frescoes & panel paintings in Italy & Avignon from the 1340s.