Skip to main content

Tree of Jesse


A common iconographic subject in medieval and early Renaissance art, representing the royal genealogy of Christ from Jesse, father of David (Mt 1.117). The image of the tree was taken from Isaiah 11.1, "But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom." As early as Tertullian the Fathers interpreted the shoot (virga ) as the Blessed Virgin (virgo ), the blossom as Christ her Son. In the 11th century the subject makes its appearance in German miniature painting, after which it appears throughout Europe in manuscripts, stained glass, and sculpture. An Advent theme presented with wide variations, it generally represents the Prophet Jesse reclining on the ground with a tree rising from his side. The tree might carry any number of figures from the genealogy of Christ. Earlier representations show Christ at the summit in majesty; but from the beginning of the 13th century, with the rise of the Marian cult, Mary becomes the blossom holding the Christ Child in her arms. Often the Virgin is enthroned, and sometimes she is surrounded with the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost mentioned in the same prophecy (Is 11.2). Iconologically the theme is a testimony of the true humanity of Christ. But it is also a testimony to the royalty of Christ, hence its popularity at Saint-Denis and chartres.

See Also: mary, blessed virgin, iconography of.

Bibliography: a. watson, The Early Iconography of the Tree of Jesse (London 1934). l. rÉau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 3 v. in 6 (Paris 195559) 2:129140.

[j. r. johnson]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Tree of Jesse." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 18 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Tree of Jesse." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (February 18, 2019).

"Tree of Jesse." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.