Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Madonna in the Garden - In Flowery mead attr to Jacopo Pontormo (Italian, 1494–1557)

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. 
Jacopo Carucci known as Jacopo da Pontormo, Jacopo Pontormo or simply Pontormo, (Italian Mannerist painter, 1494–1557) Madonna and Child with young St John the Baptist. Here the Madonna sits barefoot in a flowery mead of wildflowers.

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.  The flowery mead is one of the essential components of the literary medieval garden. Poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) in his 1348 Decameron wrote "in the midst of the garden a lawn of very fine grass, so green it seemed nearly black, colored with perhaps a thousand kind of flowers……shut in with very green citrus & orange trees bearing, at the same time, both ripe fruit & young fruit & flowers so that they pleased the sense of smell as well as charmed the eyes with shade."