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Stefano di Giovanni - Madonna in the Rose Garden

by Alexandra Tuschka

It is a gold-soaked painting, in the center of which squats the Mother Mary with the Child Jesus. She lowers her eyes and gently puts a finger to her lips.

In the tangle of decorative and floral elements, numerous angels can be seen. Some of them are holding rose petals in their hands, thus referring to the rose as an attribute of Mother Mary. We are in the "Rose Grove" - in the rose garden, which is an independent pictorial theme within the iconography of the Madonna and is called "Madonna dell'umiltà" in technical jargon.

Almost every motif in the work can be understood symbolically: through the fountain and the pretty peacocks, this garden is marked as noble. This is seen as a "hortus conclusus" - a closed, intimate space that houses the characters. It is also frequently used in Madonna iconography and represents the chastity of the Blessed Mother. The peacocks represent immortal life and enliven the surroundings, while the fountain also characterizes Mary as a "fons gratiae" - a source of grace.

At the bottom another person has made himself comfortable. Here St. Catherine of Alexandria can be seen. This one is easily identified by her attributes - the royal dress and the wheel. She was a popular saintly figure within Gothic court art and is one of the four great holy virgins. The wheel is one of her instruments of torture and accompanies the saint on the picture grounds. 

Stefano di Giovanni - Madonna in the Rose Garden

Tempera on wood, c. 1425, 129 x 95 cm, Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona


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