As it was a happy color, specially the emerald was praised as the most beautiful jewel, in which all marvel of nature was incarnated and made imperishable. It was considered also an earthly representation of Paradise, and written about by monks. No wonder: emerald has strong color and is translucent, has light, and light and strong hues very important for the medieval aesthetics.
The painting on the left is by Hieronymus Bosch, who is often labeled as being Northern Renaissance painter, but there is still so much of medieval elements in his paintings, also in this one. Bosch: a very mysterious painter, and lots was written about his speculated following of heresies. But this painting is quite conventional for Bosch's standards. It is the left wing of the Last Judgement triptych, in the collection Gemaldesammlung der Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, in Vienna. It shows the fall of angels, and the story of creation of Adam and Eve, temptation and expulsion form Paradise. (Please click on the picture to view it bigger). It is about bliss, heavenly and earthly, and primordial sense of innocence, and about loss all of this. Also we see Jesus in Paradise. Why? Jesus was in medieval mystical writings and systems considered the Second Adam, the one who brings the Paradise back to the fallen human race.
But the hope of salvation was the expectation of something bigger, something which could not be lost anymore, not a conditional existence in a Paradise in the story depicted in the Bosch's painting. It was about something above also the secular symbolism of green, which was found very limiting and temporary. In the secular world green was standing for Spring, new love, fertility. It was real hope for something beyond all limitations, it was about the life eternal, and the color of life was green, archetype of course, but it got a new dimension: a heavenly one.
And as such was totally elevated, wasn't anymore about life like in the Nature, where seasons pass, or impermanent state of natural fertility which was bound with rebirth, suffering, aging and death. This life was about absolute perfection which never faded.
And the hope, longing for such existence was made one of the most important Christian virtues, (along with faith and unconditional love), and of course the color of it was green, because already showed symbolically what the all hope was about.
|Mosaic of the apse int eh church of St Apolinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy. Thank you Berthold Werner for releasing this picture into public domain.|
An earlier mosaic, this time from V c, is on the entrance wall of the mausoleum of Galla Palcidia, Also in Ravenna , Italy.
|Jesus as the Good Shepherd, mosaic, V c. Galla Placidia Mausoleum, Ravenna, Italy|