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Tapestry depicting the goddess of flowers overseeing an aristocratic couple riding through the countryside where peasants sow grain and till the fields and a couple and child stroll.

Garden and Nature in the Medieval World

February 13–July 2023 | Snapshots of medieval gardens in a global comparative framework and medieval peoples’ relationship to gardens and nature through their art.

This exhibition presents snapshots of medieval gardens in a global comparative framework, drawing attention to the varied expressions of garden culture in the research areas represented at Dumbarton Oaks.  In addition, this exhibit includes selected objects from the museum galleries that depict medieval peoples’ relationship to gardens and nature through their art.

View and Download the Exhibit Map

To speak of “garden” and “nature” in the medieval world is to consider in the broadest terms how human beings have lived surrounded by and in constant relationship with the natural environment.

Objects on View

Section of a mosaic depicting a hunter spearing a boar in the chest and a leopard pierced with arrows

Floor Mosaic with Hunting Scenes

View the catalog record for the mosaic

Reddish-brown jar in the shape of a stylized frog

Jar Depicting the Botanical Frog

View the catalog record for the Jar

Painting of a kneeling Saint Peter flanked by two men, one of whom is stabbing Peter in the chest with a long knife

Painting, Death of St. Peter Martyr

View the catalog record for the painting

Il libro della agricultura by Pietro de'Crescenzi

View the catalog record for the book by Pietro de'Crescenzi  

Printed page of a book with an inset illustration of a woman and lute player in a garden courtyard, surrounded by Italian text

Line illustration of an oval pedestal with an elephant and a obelisk carved with hieroglyphics

La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo by Francesco Colonna

View the catalog record for the book by Francesco Colonna

This exhibition has been curated by Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, Curator, Byzantine Collection; Rong Huang, Tyler Fellow (2022-2024), PhD Candidate, Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University; Nikos Kontogiannis, Director, Byzantine Studies; and Anatole Tchikine, Curator, Rare Books, with assistance from Lizzie McCord, Post-graduate Curatorial Fellow, Dumbarton Oaks.

Contributions from Micah Budway, AM Candidate in Regional Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University; Stephanie Caruso, Giorgi Family Foundation Curatorial Fellow, Art Institute of Chicago; Noa Corcoran-Tadd, Pre-Columbian Studies Librarian; Juan Antonio Murro, Chief Curator, Museum; and Frauke Sachse, Director, Pre-Columbian Studies.

This exhibition has been organized to coincide with the Medieval Academy of America’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, from February 23–26, 2023. The conference’s theme of “internationalisms” provided an ideal opportunity for exploring medieval gardens and attitudes toward nature across cultures. The project is a unique coordination among the departments and specializations so well represented at Dumbarton Oaks, including the Museum, Byzantine Studies, Pre-Columbian Studies, Library, and Rare Books.