Half way with the 17th century coif – almost.

Time to move the coif along on the frame. It’s taken me longer than I hoped to get to the half way stage and now I need to be careful about over tightening the linen as I don’t want to damage the stitching I’ve done already. I’ve also taken the opportunity to experiment with a grey thread for my plan if I have time to make it my own. Unfortunately, it only gains the depth of colour I want when it is used in satin stitch, so back to the drawing board.  

This will be the last post about my theory with regard to the flowers of the Mary garden – I’m curious as to how the bugs fit in to the story. I know that the cycle of life caterpillar, larva and moth or butterfly provides us with rebirth and resurrection but I’m not sure about the beetles. I do wonder if there’s a linked symbolism that perhaps explains why there are no bees, grasshoppers or snails.

The list of plants:

Borage– (which is about to appear on my canvas) – it was believed borage brings courage – so I can see why it might be an essential. However, back to the concept of the Mary Garden – it also goes by the name St Joseph’s Staff.

Carnation  – is one of the oldest known garden plants. The Romans were rather keen on them.  Pink ones are associated with motherly love. Apparently, they sprang from Mary’s tears as she watched Christ carry the cross. Red ones are symbolic of blood and if you’re Holbein you stick them in pictures as a symbol of betrothal or salvation thanks to Christ’s resurrection. The image below is the portrait of Simon George.

Columbine – see post on Granny’s bonnet. But also known as ‘Our Lady’s shoes’. According to a legend the flowers were said to have sprung up wherever Mary’s foot touched the ground on her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth

Daffodil – see post on daffodil.

Marigold – see post on marigold.

Roses – divine love, martyrdom – associated with Mary, sometimes called the mystical rose. I was thrown art the start of the project because the first thing I thought was Tudor rose, but then I’m not a catholic and I don’t live in the seventeenth century with a handy guidebook.

Strawberries – the leaf has three parts so might be associated with the Trinity – it’s also called the ‘Fruitful Virgin’.  Medieval art sometimes depicted Mary with strawberry plants (I feel a hunt for an example coming on at some point). In Norse mythology it was associated with the goddess Freya and was simply transferred into Christian culture.  Expanding the theme a little, it is also the emblem of righteous men – the fruit of good works.

Violet – humility, innocence, purity – sometimes known as ‘Our Lady’s Modesty.’  St Bernard described Mary as ‘the violet of humility.’ It can also refer to the passion of Christ.

I don’t think I’ve left anything off the list. I’m still looking for a book or journal article about secular embroidery linked to English Catholicism but am having no joy. I may expand the search into stump work which was popular during the same period. I have discovered a book entitled A Garden Catechism which details 100 plants in Christian tradition which I will be getting.  I think I may be hooked.  

A complete list, should you feel the urge, can be found here and Castle Bolton Garden has a very interesting online article as well:

Ferguson, George, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press)