The Hidden Symbolism  of Fruit in Western painting

A ripe apple, a peach, a golden pear, a lemon, a juicy strawberry, an pomegranate—all are charmingly decorative to the average viewer. For painters of the Byzantine, Gothic and Early Renaissance periods, fruit was part of a rich visual language.  Art-works exhibited in public, mostly in churches and courthouses, were a stern proclamation that everyone could readily understand. These paintings, with their layer upon layer of vivid symbolism, served as a grim reminder to anyone harboring lustful thoughts or indulging in carnal pleasures.  They warned the viewer that death was just around the corner and Satan was at the ready with his pitchfork. Paintings throughout Western history have been used as guides in illuminating the divine mysteries of Gods Holy Word.  Bread and wine are prominently featured in painting throughout Western art history.

In a culture of limited literacy symbolic imagery was vital in enlightening the masses. Most prominently featured Fruit in Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Painting:

pomegranate -  Symbolizes eternal life; divine prosperity; unity of the Christian community. The pomegranate can also signify fall from grace and mans sinful nature. Also associated with Saint Catherine, as the mystical bride of Christ

apple - Carnal pleasures and sin; sins of mankind, original sin; "forbidden fruit".

fig -  Symbolizes loss of innocence and a fall from grace. Adam and Eve wore fig leaves when they first recognized their own nakedness. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (Genesis 3:7)

pear -  Symbolizes marital faith. Also associated with Saint Catherine, as the mystical bride of Christ.

Grapes Signify lewdness and lustful thoughts.

orange -Symbol of free will.

lemon - Symbolic of a bitter heart or a sour disposition; resentment; unresolved conflict.

strawberry -Symbol of harmony, nourishment of the soul.

peach - Symbol of virtue and honor. A rotting or half-eaten peach symbolizes a woman who has tarnished her reputation with immoral behavior.

Wine made from grapes is a symbol of the Eucharist. The wine is the wine of Sacrifice. The blood of Jesus Christ and symbolic of the holy sacrament of Christ Himself.  “This embodies Me: where this is, I am: receiving this, you receive Me.” “This is My Blood"–that is, “This is My life: My life which is given for you: My life which in death I laid down and in rising again from the dead I resumed: My life which is to be the principle of spiritual life in you.” “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life.... He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me and I in him.”   

 

 
 

 

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