Thursday, July 27, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - The Virgin in a Paradise Garden 1415-30

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. 

Unknown Master German, The Virgin sitting in a Flowery Mead in a Paradise Garden 1415-30

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 is seldom depicted 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. Many images of medieval gardens are allegorical or metaphorical, rather than realistic representations of specific medieval gardens. The Virgin Mary begins to appear in contrived, formal gardens & in more natural cultural landscapes in images in the 1300s. 

Since Mary's purity was seen as the equivalent of great beauty, the enclosed garden is often depicted as a "paradise garden" filled with flowers & aromatic plants. Paradise was originally a Persian name (paradeisos) for a garden park stocked with exotic animals, & the word Paradise was used by the Greeks to mean 'an ideal place.'