The Art of Topiary » Detail from “The Annunciation”

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Detail from "The Annunciation"

Detail from The Annunciation, 1465–75. Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden (possibly Hans Memling, active by 1465, died 1494) (Netherlandish, 1399/1400–1464). Oil on wood; 73 1/4 x 45 1/4 in. (186.1 x 114.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.7). See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

From the window of the Virgin’s house, we look out at a delightful vignette of a Netherlandish garden of the fifteenth century; at the back wall of the enclosed garden, a woman tends two potted shrubs trained to a tiered form, or estrade. Although the metal hoops which were often used to confine the foliage to the desired form are not visible here, they can be seen in other contemporary representations.

These shrubs may well be rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), which would necessarily have been brought indoors in northern winters, and would thus have been grown in containers.

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