Thursday, June 9, 2016

Discovering a 16C-17C Garden in a Painting Background - Hendrick van Balen (1575-1632)

Hendrick van Balen (Dutch, c 1574-5-1632) The Holy Family in a Garden Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Angers  

Hendrick van Balen or Hendrick van Balen I (1574-5-1632) was a Flemish Baroque artist. He was one of the teachers of Anthony van Dyck. Van Balen collaborated with artists such as Joos of Momper, Gaspar de Witte, Jan Brueghel the Elder  and Jan Brueghel the Younger, and Rubens.  From 1595 until 1602 he studied art during a trip in Italy. Although there is no official record of his trip to Italy, to his return to Antwerp, he became a member of the guild Romanistics. There the condition was that members of this guild have visited Rome. In 1613, he was elected dean of the guild.

Hendrick van Balen (Dutch, c 1574-5-1632)  Vertumnus und Pomona  In this painting, flowers in pots appear to have been especially popular, both indoors & out. Potted plants & trees are depicted placed on top of balustrads, grassy beds, & terraces in gardens & entryways--some of these may have been tender perennials or fruit trees. Plants in pots were used both outdoors or in the house (See The Italian Renaissance Interior: 1400-1600, by Peter Thornton, Abrams 1991)

As in these paintings, allegorical characters in stories & in art of this period were often located in garden settings. The locus amoenus was one of the traditional locations of epic & chivalric literature. As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose & verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of Medieval & Early Modern Europe.  Locus amoenus (Latin for "pleasant place") is a literary term which generally referring to an idealized place of safety or comfort, usually a beautiful, shady parkland or open woods, sometimes with connotations of Eden. A locus amoenus usually has 3 basic elements: trees, grass, & water. 

Often, the locus amoenus garden will be in a remote setting & with only components or suggestions of a more formal, geometric, walled garden. In some works, such gardens also have overtones of the regenerative powers of human sexuality marked out by flowers, & goddesses of springtime, love, & fertility. Ernst Robert Curtius formulated the concept's definition in his European Literature & the Latin Middle Ages (1953). 

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