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The Lover with Reason

The Lover with Reason

From a manuscript of Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung, Le roman de la rose, France, copied c 1460–70

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Douce 364, fol 24v

The dream allegory of Le roman de la rose, completed in 1275, made use of symbols prevalent in medieval Europe that merged the sensual and the transcendent. The literary device of the garden signified a private and secluded place for lovers to meet, but also conveyed the notion of the hortus conclusus, an enclosed space symbolising female purity through associations with the Virgin Mary. The widespread symbolism of the rose was also linked to the Virgin. Garden, flower and rose symbolism used by medieval European and Persian writers had much in common, drawing on early Christian and Islamic sources that intersected as they developed alongside each other in the eastern Mediterranean.