Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Apple symbolism; the Forbidden Fruit

Why fruit; Fruits and vegetables are often used purely for decoration. However when a specific fruit is part of a composition in Christian art, it may also have symbolic significance. Like flowers, fruits and vegetables, suggest the cycle of nature. Fruits contain the seeds for the new generation and are general symbols for the ascendance of the harvest, for fertility - and sometimes for earthly desires. Fruits can have the additional dimension of relating to the 12 fruits of the spirit in Christianity. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, patience, modesty, temperance and chastity.

My endeavour is to create a bowl of fruit, of ideal beauty, desirable for a new generation. The epiphany of man is what he eats in the context of the of the 21st century. My aim is to embrace Umberto Echo's expressed views on defining beauty to ensure the product has universal appeal.
He states in his book tilted On Beauty "Our explorer from the future will no longer be able to identify the aesthetic ideal diffused by the mass media of the 20th century and beyond. He will have to surrender before the orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute and unstoppable polytheism of beauty (2007)".

Offering an apple - is a declaration of love.
Like the orange, as fertility, the apple blossom is used for brides. Chinese peace and concord. apple blossom ; a symbol of peace and beauty, Celtic; It has magic and chthonic powers; the fruit of the Other world; fertility; marriage, Halloween, an apple festival, is associated with the death of the old year. as the Apple of Hesperides - health and immortality.JC Cooper An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional symbols - page 14.

Apple. Fertility; love; joyousness; knowledge; wisdom; divination; luxury; but also deceitfulness and death. The apple was the forbidden fruit of the Golden Age. As round it represents totality and unity, as opposed to the multiplicity of the pomegranate, and as the fruit of the Tree of Life given my Iduma to the gods. As the Apple of Hesperides, and the fruit of Freya's garden, it symbolizes immortality.
JC Cooper An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional symbols.

Apple in Still Life (detail), Caravaggio 1592.

Apple as forbidden fruit. The apple is mainly associated with Adam and Eve, and the Fall. Traditionally the forbidden fruit on the Tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden was an apple - a botanical impossibility, as apples were not known in the Holland. It may have been an apricot - apple of gold or a fig.The Latin word malum, means both apple and evil, which maybe the origin of the apple symbol. When Adam and Eve are shown with the apple, it is a symbol of disobedience and of original sin, of indulgence in earthly desires and sensual pleasures (see image below).

Adam and Eve with the Apple - their disobedience. (original sin) - of indulgence in earthly desires and sensual pleasures (see image below).

"The dream books of the time tell us the true meaning of their enjoyments; the cherries, strawberries, raspberries and grapes that are offered them, and which they eat with pleasure, are nothing but the godless symbols of sexual lust. Here Bosch paints a striking picture of repressed desires" (De Tolnay B, Hieronymus Bosch; 1966; 204).

H Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail). 1485 Museo del Prado

H Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail). 1485 Museo del Prado

"In speech and poetry the breasts of a woman are referred to as apples, e.g. By Fischarrt'.'This meaning is confirmed by psyhoanalysis. See Freud, op. cit. (Vorlesungen), p.168; the breasts... which like the larger hemispheres of the female body are represented by apples, peaches, fruit in general".

However, conversely, when near and or held by Mary of the Christ child, acceptance of man's sins and salvation. Mary is the second Eve and Christ the second Adam - take away original sin and restore man the promise of eternal life. The apple is therefore a symbol of immortality - of the soul. Song of Solomon 2:3 - As the apple tree amongst the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste - an illusion to Christ.

H Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail). 1485 Museo del Prado


Anonymous said...

hi eugene, i can easily see your sketchbooks under glass in a museum display case someday (after you're dead unfortunately) open to a page like the one shown with the lovely apple drawing and all the writing of you thought. funny about apples not really be available during the supposed time of garden of eden. it reminds me in a slightly tangential thought of the modern interpretation of the koran promising 71 virgins when the original text uses a word the is similar to the word virgin but really means "raisins of crystal clarity". i mention that for the above reason as well as to point out (what you already know) that fruit was held in much higher esteem in a world that knew nothing or sugar and all the insane manifestations of said sugar today.

Unknown said...

I am happy to see that you so thoroughly research the symbolism in the object that you are using as the subject of your art. I would like to know if you were considering doing a series on specific meanings of objects or if you were planning on elaborating on the apple you are currently concentrating on. I agree that your sketches are beautiful and are great studies of your subject matter.

Eugene Hon said...

I am not one hundred percent sure where this research is going, but I at this point in time I am striving to produce different fruit, each with their own meaning (look and feel) whilst contributing to a whole. They could either be exhibited as individual pieces and or as a bowl of fruit. I will probably cast the fruit, whole and in sections, ensuring that the different moulds could be used together to create different configurations of the same fruit, some cut with surface decoration (naturalistic or realistic including amorphous or nebulous in parts. The fruit could also be cut, creating interesting and dynamic forms and shapes; the cut sections transformed with sprigs; revealing the hidden meaning within. Blemishes often on the fruit's surface, could be extended to have symbolic meaning, turned into desirable patterns, whilst at first glance they are the real thing. The individual fruit segments (cut out) will also be cast and transformed into something useful, usable and also desirable or the opposite (treated as a by product recycling). The main objective is to create the ultimate desirable bowl of symbolic fruit; it is a kind of 21 st century nourishment (for the soul - man is what he eats) that the imagination must digest and transform.

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