Friday, March 20, 2020

Gardens as Art: Aesthetic Journeys around the World II

Matarea Garden
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

At the second Sunday  Art Lecture, on March 8, Dr. Marcus Milwright described many aspects – artistic, medicinal and religious – of this fabulous but elusive botanical wonder in Egypt.

According to legend the garden sheltered the Holy Family after they fled to escape the persecution of Herod, and early Christians considered the area sacred. Thus, in medieval times, even though it belonged to the Islamic Sultan, only Christians could harvest the valuable balsam oil.

The garden’s actual appearance is open to speculation as most of the early illustrations of it were done by European artists and mapmakers who had never actually been there. Most agree that there was a large sycamore, traditionally the ‘Virgin’s Tree,’ and an obelisk nearby (although I think the one I included is far too tall, making the garden look more like it’s in Washington DC than Cairo) and there was some sort of water mechanism, and the precious balsom shrubs (to which I’ve added orange trees) were surrounded by a wall with a guarded gate.  The detail on the right is from an illustrated map, from the 1575 edition of Sebastian Munster`s Cosmographia.