Madonna Under the Fir Tree (1510, but may have actually have been painted in Vienna between 1500-04), by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary. Isaiah 60:13 (NIV)

The painting, which had been hanging in the Cathedral of St. John in Wroclaw, Poland since the 16th Century, was in the process of being restored in 1946 (look closely to see where it was broken in half). A German priest and amateur art collector, Siegfried Zimmer, was in charge of the restoration project. Instead, he made a forgery of the painting and slipped away to Berlin with the original, leaving the counterfeit behind. It was not until 1961 that the hoax was discovered. From that point on, the painting was held privately until 2012 when negotiations began for its recovery and return. In the summer of 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland finally negotiated the return of the original to the Wroclaw Cathedral.  


The Symbolism of Flowers

Portinari-Altar, Gesamtansicht (1476-78) painted by Hugo van der Goes on commission for Sant d'Edigio chapel in the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, Florence, Italy.

The flowers in the vase (center front, see detail) were chosen for their symbolism:  violets for humility; blue and white irises for purity and heavenliness; lilies for the symbol of Mary and her purity; columbines for the Holy Spirit; and three red carnations for love and the Trinity.

A garden is a good thing but that is not the sort of goodness it has. It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it. Its real glory is of quite a different kind. The very fact that it needs constant weeding and pruning bears witness to that glory. It teems with life. It glows with colour and smells like heaven and puts forward at every hour of a summer day beauties which man could never have created and could not even, on his own resources, have imagined. If you want to see the difference between its contribution and the gardener’s, put the commonest weed it grows side by side with his hoes, rakes, shears, and packet of weed killer; you have put beauty, energy and fecundity beside dead, sterile things. Just so, our ‘decency and common sense’ show grey and deathlike beside the geniality of love.
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, “Charity” (1960)

He also built towers in the wilderness and dug many cisterns, because he had much livestock in the foothills and in the plain. He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 2 Chronicles 26:10 (NIV)

Illustration: Le vray et methodique cours de la physique resolutiue, vulgairement dite chymie… (“The true and methodical course of physics, commonly called science…” partial title translation) (1653), by Chez N. Charles, near Sainct Hilaire (written in French, woodcut illustrations).