Posts Tagged ‘pink’

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Pink Reincarnate

unicorn_carnationdetail2

The Unicorn in Captivity (from the Unicorn Tapestries) (detail), 1495–1505. South Netherlandish. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937 (37.80.6). See Collections to learn more about this work of art. The red-flowered plant that appears to the left of the blue iris, just outside the Unicorn’s enclosure, is a carnation, a doubled garden form of the clove pink. Unlike the iris, which was already of ancient cultivation, these garden pinks were developed in the later Middle Ages.

LUXURIOUS man, to bring his vice in use,
Did after him the world seduce,
And from the fields the flowers and plants allure,
Where Nature was most plain and pure.
He first inclosed within the gardens square
A dead and standing pool of air,
And a more luscious earth for them did knead,
Which stupefied them while it fed.
The pink grew then as double as his mind;
The nutriment did change the kind.
With strange perfumes he did the roses taint;
And flowers themselves were taught to paint.

—Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), “The Mower Against Gardens,” Lines 1–12

This complaint, in which a mower laments that the sweet fields have been forsaken for the artificialities of the English Renaissance garden, was penned by Andrew Marvell, the seventeenth-century Metaphysical poet, who wrote as famously and well of gardens and their plants as he did of fields and wildflowers. In “The Mower Against Gardens,” Marvell chooses the doubled pink, or carnation, as the floral emblem of man’s fall from nature and agriculture into horticulture and duplicity. (A reading of the entire poem is available on YouTube.)

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Hunting Pinks

Dianthus

The ragged pink shown above, also known as Seguieri’s pink or broad-leaved pink, is native to southwestern Europe. This prettily fringed, or “pinked,” flower is one of three species of dianthus depicted in the Unicorn Tapestries. But is this dianthus, grown from seed just this year, the wild pink depicted in the detail from The Hunters Enter the Woods below?

The little pink growing in a pot on the parapet in Bonnefont garden was started from seed by gardener Esme Webb, who is responsible for propagation at The Cloisters. As has been the practice here for many years, we compare what we believe to be the medieval species procured with representations of that plant in the art collection. Although the seed we obtained from a European seed house was identified as Dianthus seguieri, the single flower borne on this young plant either lacks the white blotching characteristic of this species altogether, or has blotching so minimal as to be imperceptible. Read more »