Stuart Currie just left a perceptive comment on the National Trust Libraries Facebook page about the visual echoes between an illustration of birds and fruit in an Italian manuscript at Ickworth and William Morris’s ‘Strawberry Thief’ textile design.
Although I am not aware of any evidence that Morris ever saw this particular manuscript, it may be indicative of a tradition of depicting birds in their natural habitat, and with their favourite foods.
There are probably voluminous studies about this subject out there – do please leave a comment if you are aware of any.
Being new to the subject, I found it interesting to discover a number of images of birds and fruit, in different styles and media, among the National Trust’s collections.
There is obviously an ornithological and a botanical aspect to these depictions, but they may also contain symbolic, emblematic meanings.
In the setting of a domestic interior, these images may of course also have the effect of bringing the natural world inside, of evoking the twitter and chirp of birds, their lithe hoppings and flutterings, the rustle of leaves and the smell of ripe fruit.