Enclosed Garden with Saint Elisabeth, Saint Ursula and Saint Catherine

c. 1524-1530, 134 x 188,5 x 22,2 cm

Enclosed Gardens of Mechelen

Museum Hof van Busleyden, Mechelen

Seven surviving Enclosed Gardens of the Augustinian Hospital Sisters of Mechelen (Malines), early 16th century

1. Enclosed Garden with a Calvary Scene and the Hunt of the Unicorn, c. 1510-1530, 124 x 158,5 x 33 cm

2. Enclosed Garden with Saint Elisabeth, Saint Ursula and Saint Catherine, c. 1524-1530, 134 x 188,5 x 22,2 cm

3. Enclosed Garden with a Calvary Scene, the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist, c. 1525-1528, 109 x 151,5 x 28,2 cm

Portrait wings attributed to Master of the Guild of Saint George or his circle

Sculpture of crucified Christ signed with CORNEILIS

4. Enclosed Garden with the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, Daniel in the Lion's Den and Saint Jerome, c. 1530, 83,5x142x23 cm

5. Enclosed Garden with a Crucified Christ, c. 1530, 56x92x13 cm

6. Enclosed Garden with St Augustine, the Virgin and Child with St Anne and St Elisabeth, c. 1530, 147,5 x 208,3 x 37,8 cm

7. Enclosed Garden with a Madonna, c. 1539 - 1700 (?), 51 x 69,1 x 11,5 cm

Enclosed Gardens of Mechelen : Late Medieval Paradise Gardens

During the Late Middle Ages a unique type of 'mixed media' recycled and remnant art arose in houses of religious women in the Low Countries: enclosed gardens. They date from the time of Emperor Charles V and are unique examples of 'anonymous' female art, devotion and spirituality. A hortus conclusus (or enclosed garden) represents an ideal, paradisiacal world. Enclosed Gardens are retables, sometimes with painted side panels, the central section filled not only with narrative sculpture, but also with all sorts of trinkets and hand-worked textiles. Adornments include relics, wax medallions, gemstones set in silver, pilgrimage souvenirs, parchment banderoles, flowers made from textiles with silk thread, semi-precious stones, pearls and quilling (a decorative technique using rolled paper). The ensemble is an impressive and one-of-a-kind display and presents as an intoxicating garden. The sixteenth-century horti conclusi of the Mechelen Hospital sisters are recognized Masterpieces and are extremely rare, not alone at a Belgian but even at a global level. They are of international significance as they provide evidence of devotion and spirituality in convent communities in the Southern Netherlands in the sixteenth century. They are an extraordinary tangible expression of a devotional tradition. The highly individual visual language of the enclosed gardens contributes to our understanding of what life was like in cloistered communities. They testify to a cultural identity closely linked with mystical traditions allowing us to enter a lost world very much part of the culture of the Southern Netherlands.