Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

The emblematic beauty of birds and fruit

October 20, 2011

Plate from an Italian manuscipt, c. 1600, at Ickworth. ©National Trust/Mark Purcell

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.

'Strawberry Thief' upholstery on an amrchair in the Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton. ©NTPL/Paul Raeside

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.

Painting of a blackbird with cherries, by either Ambrosius II Bosschaert or Abraham Bosschaert, c. 1600, at Ham House. Surrey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

There are probably voluminous studies about this subject out there – do please leave a comment if you are aware of any.

A West Indian monkey with birds, fruit, flowers and butterflies, by Sarah, Lady Fetherstonhaugh, 1757, at Uppark, West Sussex. ©NTPL/John Hammond

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.

Bird with fruit in pietra dura, in the Florentine cabinet (once owned by William Beckford) in the Drawing Room at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

There is obviously an ornithological and a botanical aspect to these depictions, but they may also contain symbolic, emblematic meanings.

Printed textile wall hanging with bird among foliage and fruit, at Belton House, Lincolnshire. ©NTPL/Rob Matheson

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.