Madonna in the Rose Bower
In 1473, the date on the back of the picture, Martin Schongauer painted for the church of St Martin at Colmar one of the most famous pictures of the German School, the Madonna in the Rose Bower. Crowned by two angels and holding the Child, the Virgin is seated in front of a hedge in which are interlaced wild roses or dog roses and garden roses bearing both flowers and buds. Peony buds appear among them. In the hedge birds are fluttering.
This theme comes from the same literary sources as the Paradise Garden (page 31). Among the flowers to which the Virgin was compared in the middle Ages, the rose, which in Antiquity had been singled out for honor as an attribute of Venus, was considered the most appropriate symbol of Mary along with the lily. Secular poetry seized hold of this image of the rose, which St Bernard was the first to attribute to Mary. In about 1235 the poet Gautier de Coincy composed a pastoral in honor of the Virgin. Having gone out riding in the fields in the early morning, he there happens upon a flower:
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The hedge or grove of roses made its appearance in French art at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It is found, in fact, for the first time in a piece of Parisian goldsmith’s work known as ‘The little Horse of Alt-Otting,’ which had been given to the French king, Charles VI, by Queen Isabella of Bavaria in 1404. The king does not seem to have appreciated this present very much, for in July 1405 he gave it as a security to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Bavaria, who took it away with him in 1413. It was presented to the church of Alt-Otting at the beginning of the sixteenth century. At the top of a staircase, before which stands the king’s horse caparisoned with roses, the Virgin sits beneath an arched trellis of oak branches and roses; the king himself, crowned with roses, kneels before her; he is flanked by St Catherine, St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist, represented as children. The theme of the rose hedge appears in Germany shortly afterwards, in a picture of the Virgin offering a rose to the Child Jesus (Solothurn Museum). Stephan Lochner, in his famous Virgin in the Walraff-Richartz-Museum at Cologne, turned the hedge into an arched trellis, and Schongauer came back to the hedge. Italy too was to make the acquaintance of this theme, and one of the Florentine artists, Pier Francesco Fiorentino, made a speciality of it.
In Germany it is also linked with the legend of the Rose Garden of Worms. Planted on an island in the Rhine, by the beautiful Kriemhild, daughter of King Kibich, this fabulous garden, a league long and half a league wide, had in the midst of it a lime tree, under which five hundred noble ladies could shelter, and it was filled with dazzling roses. Other rose garden legends cropped up in Germany in imitation of the Worms garden, and in them the rose was often associated with the nightingale, as it is in Arabic poetry. In the end, on the model of these imaginary rose gardens, real ones were planted. The legend became mingled with the establishment of the Meistergesang in the fourteenth century: each of the twelve masters who were supposed to have founded it had received in charge a rose garden, the symbol of his poetry.
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Globe Amaranth. Gomphrena haageana.
Image by Swallowtail Garden Seeds Globe Amaranth is beautiful, both in bouquets and in the garden.
Image by Eugenia Loli Amaranth ("vleeta") from my own garden.
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