Madonna of the Rose Bowerc. 1440
Stefan Lochner c.1400-1451
Oil on panel, 51 x 40 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne
This small panel which employs several iconographic models is an especially charming remnant of Cologne Gothic.
It depicts the "humble Madonna" (Madonna dell' Umiltà) as Mary is sitting on the ground or on a pillow placed on the ground, gently holding an infant in her lap. Their figures are surrounded by adoring angels who offer flowers and fruits to the baby Jesus. To create a backdrop for the scene, two diligent angels stretch out a golden brocade curtain which reminds the viewer of the reigning, victorious Madonna. At the same time, this curtain insures separation from the rest of the world and the intimacy of the holy family. Above, surrounded by light-rays, we can see God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit. This intimates the Immaculate Conception; thus the painting includes the depiction of the Holy Trinity. This is the picture of completeness with the Divine Mother as its centre.
The image of being enclosed is reinforced by another motif: the low stone wall around Mary, which recalls the "hortus conclusus" (enclosed garden), the symbol of Mary's purity and innocence.
The spectacular carpet of flowers covering the ground intimates the earthly Garden of Eden, as does the bower of roses. Roses were often connected with the Madonna; such a simile appears in several medieval Latin hymns to the Virgin.
The musical child angels in the foreground play an important part in the creation of an idyllic atmosphere. Their instruments - two different sized lutes, a harp and a portative organ - are realistically rendered, and their small hands reveal their musical expertise.
Notes from the Web Galley of Art