March: Visions of Medieval Gardens

From flower gardens to Mary Garden (a famous opera singer of the early 1900s), our March gallery celebrates the reopening of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden and the coming of spring.

Scroll down to discover more about each image.

Mary Garden in the Garden. Mary Garden, the diva who played the Juggler in Jules Massenet’s opera Le Jongleur de Notre Dame to great critical acclaim, moved in the same circles as Dumbarton Oak’s founders Robert and Mildred Bliss. They may have seen her portrayal of Mélisande (pictured on left) in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Mélisande’s Allée (pictured right) in the Dumbarton Oaks Garden is named for this character in the opera.

Right: “Miss Mary Garden as Melisande in Debussy’s Opera ‘Pelleas and Melisande,'” The Theatre Magazine, c.1908-1911.
Left: Brick walk with daffodils in Mélisande’s Allée, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington, D.C. Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives.

Peonies of the Pirate Publisher. Avast! The publisher of this 1906 volume, Thomas Mosher, was dubbed a “pirate” publisher for his notorious habits of poaching texts and reprinting them without permission. This edition of the Juggler is no exception, taking its text from the translation of Reverend Philip Henry Wicksteed and achieving a wide distribution. This copy has been lovingly decorated with floral motifs in watercolor by Clara Chipman Newton.

Philip H. Wicksteed (trans.), Our Lady’s Tumbler: A Twelfth Century Legend (Portland, ME: Thomas B. Mosher, 1906).

Carved Wood. The wood of this Gothic Revival bench, probably made in France during the 19th century, is in bloom with carved flowers and foliage. Gothic Revival design incorporated visual motifs, such as fleur-de-lis, from the Middle Ages to evoke those simpler times.

A Modern Medieval Manuscript. The borders on this anonymous early 20th century illuminated manuscript burst with blossoms in bright reds and blues. Curling vines and applications of gold leaf pay homage to the medieval manuscripts that inspired this modern take on the Juggler story.

Photograph by Joe Mills.

Inside the Monastery Garden. The Juggler reaches the threshold of the monastery to begin his life as a monk. Ahead of him, hooded monks process through the cloisters towards the chapel, and a tree blossoms within the peaceful enclosure. This illustration by Maurice Lalau accompanied the 1924 edition of Anatole France’s Le Jongleur de Notre Dame.

Anatole France, Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame, illustrated by Maurice Lalau (Paris: A. Ferroud — F. Ferroud, 1924).