Friday, July 1, 2016

15C Garden - Hortus Conclusus - The Virgin Mary

1410 The Garden of Eden, a Hortus Conclusus Garden. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

Hortus conclusus is a Latin term, meaning literally "enclosed garden." The secluded garden, or ‘hortus conclusus’, was associated with the Virgin Mary usually in a monastery garden. Many images of medieval gardens are allegorical or metaphorical, rather than realistic representations of specific medieval gardens.

Here the grass treated as a flowery mead planted with low growing wild flowers, sweet scented flowers, & more practical herbs. Birds share the space & fill the air with their songs.

In this fantasy religious garden surrounded by a wall, the Virgin, the Child Jesus, 3 holy women & 3 holy men have met. This enclosed garden (hortus conclusus) is the symbol of the Virgin's purity, with its peaceful mood, its protected area, its fruits & flowers. The serpentine entwining of the 2 trunks of the trees on the left also reminds the viewer of the biblical Garden of Eden, the scene of the happy life of the 1st human couple before the temptation of Eve. 

The image of the hortus conclusus is intended to evoke the ancient, original, pre-sin harmony of the universe, of divine, human, animal & vegetable worlds. The Satan-monkey is squatting helplessly at St Michael's feet, while St George's dragon, very young & a little wimpy, seems to be basking in the sun, submissively turning his belly upwards. The crowns are golden garlands of flowers, & the left arm of St Cecilia holds a psaltery.