OLD IMAGE, NEW ICONS: THE GARDEN ENCLOSED

I generally avoid using modern icons, but today’s image is an exception, not only because it is very competently painted, but primarily because it is a good example of its type:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

It is called Вертоград заключенный — Vertograd zakliuchennuiy — “The Garden Enclosed.”

It is a pleasant type, but peculiar because it is known in old Russian painting only from the classic prototype painted in the so-called “Armory School” (Armory Palace — Оружейная палата — Oruzheinaya Palata) — of the Kremlin by Nikita Pavlovets in latter part of the 17th century (1670s).  So even though the original is often seen in icon books, this type is not one you are likely to find an actual icon of except in modern icon painting based on the old example.  So if someone offers you an “antique” icon of this type, you should immediately be suspicious.

The type is based on verse 4:12 from the Old Testament Song of Solomon (Canticle of Canticles):

A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.”

Though it was not the original meaning, the phrase is understood in iconography as referring to the perpetual virginity of Mary.  It is likely that the original type was influenced by the motif of the Hortus inclusus (“Garden Enclosed”) found in western European Catholic art and literature from around the beginning of the 15th century.

There are several characteristics that indicate the icon above is a modern painting — a fine example of contemporary work by Diana Arkhipova.  Nonetheless, if we compare it with the original below, we can see it differs only in small details and in coloring:

As you see, it depicts Mary in a rather baroque “Paradise Garden” enclosure, richly dressed and holding the crowned Christ child, as a crown is placed on her head by angels.  The sun is at left, and the moon at right.

In both examples the title reads “Image of the Most Holy Mother of God the Garden Enclosed.”

This image is not among the supposedly “wonderworking” icons of Mary, and does not have a day of commemoration in the Church calendar.

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