Tag Archives: landscapes

Medieval trees

I was startled one day to see a tree on a city street in Spain (possibly in Oviedo) that looked just like one of the stylized trees in a medieval miniature. It had been so tightly pruned that it was no more than a few meters high and had pompoms of leaves at the end of short branches. It looked almost exactly like this tree in a depiction of Moses before the Burning Bush. I’d assumed the pom-pom tree was a whimsical invention of the artist. Instead it turned out to be a depiction of a type of pruning.

Copy of a medieval depiction of Moses before the Burning Bush. Original source lost. This is my own drawing.

Many medieval images depict scenes in towns or in gardens – domesticated landscapes. I expected there to be a lot of small, symmetrical trees there, since that’s what trees look like in that context. But what would trees look like when depicted in wilderness settings?

Here’s an example of a king being gored by a wild boar in a forest, in a painting from 1314. Very naturalistic trees. But the trees are not the subject, either. They are merely indicators of forest.
This is a delightful hunting scene. The forest in the background is playfully done, and with great artistry, too.
Hunting is a useful context for finding depictions of trees, and I’m trying to look for things well before 1500 (this one is from the early 1300s). But I’ve not found any images in which the trees in themselves are featured – they are most often a contextual background, or sometimes a useful feature (as when someone climbs a tree in the story).

More on this in the future, perhaps.