A is for apple
These images have been drawn from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and show a range of material from straightforward botanical studies and children's book illustration, to images of the apple as an emblem of autumn, as a decorative motif and as a symbol of temptation and the Fall of Man, as well as apple-related objects.
Some of the objects illustrated below are on display in the Museum's galleries, others are available for viewing in the Prints and Drawings Study Room or the National Art Library. Some of the objects can be seen in the Archive and Library Reading Room at Blythe House or at the Museum of Childhood.
Apples in botanical illustration
This is a collection of images relating to Apples in botanical illustration
John Sherrin, 'Branch of Plums and an Apple'
John Sherrin (1819-1896)
'Branch of Plums and an Apple'
Museum number 1175-1886
Still-life, the depiction of flowers, fruit, vegetables, animals and household objects, became a popular subject for watercolour artists in the 19th century. Still-lifes appealed to patrons for the simplicity of their subject matter, and were admired above all for the skill of the artist.
This watercolour by John Sherrin invites us to view it closely, to wonder at the fineness of the brushwork rather than stepping back to admire an overall concept and composition. Mounted and framed in gold, this image is amazingly vibrant and would have complimented and enhanced the rich, cluttered style of a Victorian interior.
Robert C. Hulme, 'Lemon and Apple'
Robert C. Hulme
'Lemon and Apple'
Oil on millboard
Museum no. 5928S
Still-life, the depiction of flowers, fruit, vegetables, animals and household objects, became a popular subjects for artists in the 19th century. Many artists specialised in still life but for others it was simply part of a repertoire of subjects by which an artist could make a living.
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, 'Apple' (Malus pumila Millervar)
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (about 1533-1588)
Apple (Malus pumila Millervar)
Watercolour and body colour on paper
Museum no. AM.3267Y-1856
This is one of fifty nine watercolours of fruit and flowers that the French artist Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues painted on thirty three sheets. We do not know exactly when he painted them, but there are some clues. The watermark in the paper is the same as that used in Paris and Arras in 1568, and the binding is French. It therefore seems likely that they date from the period between 1568 and 1572. This is when Le Moyne fled to England with other Huguenots (French Protestants) to escape religious persecution in France.
The watercolours were originally in a fine tooled-leather binding dating to the late 16th century. Curators identified the watercolours as the work of Le Moyne in 1922. They removed them from the binding and mounted them individually. (The binding is in the collection of the National Art Library at the V&A.)
In the 16th century botanical illustrators revived the practice of working from real plants rather than copying from earlier painted or printed images. Here the degree of naturalistic detail, including leaves which have been damaged by insects, suggests that Le Moyne was studying a living specimen rather than using an existing illustration as his source.
Charles Jones, 'Page of photographs of apples from an album'
Charles Jones (1866-1959)
'Page of photographs of apples from an album'
Photograph, gelatin-silver print
Museum no. E.392:282-290-2005
Charles Harry Jones was a professional gardener and an amateur photographer. He made studies of fruit as well as images of the private estate, Ote Hall in Sussex, where he worked during the 1890s. He also photographed exciting events, discoveries and inventions, such as a local train crash, snake eggs and a vacuum cleaner.
Today Jones is known for his botanical images. His photographs of apples posed against a neutral background to capture each specimen's individuality, show his deep understanding of their plain beauty, brought about by tending them daily. The photographs are now recognised for their simple appeal and their proto-modernist look
Beatrix Potter, 'Still life of apples'
Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
'Still life of apples'
Museum no. LB.89
© Frederick Warne & Co. 2007
This watercolour by Beatrix Potter, painted when she was fourteen, is typical of the formal still lifes produced under the direction of her art teacher, Miss Cameron. Miss Cameron taught Beatrix from November 1876 to May 1883. When she finished her lessons with Miss Cameron she wrote in her journal: 'Painting is an awkward thing to teach except the details of the medium. If you and your master are determined to look at nature and art in two different directions you are sure to stick.'
Henry Fletcher, 'Robert Furber's Catalogue of Fruits'
Henry Fletcher (worked about 1715 to about 1738) after designs by Pieter Casteels (1684-1749)
'Robert Furber's Catalogue of Fruits'
National Art Library pressmark PC 9/5
This is one of a set of engravings representing the months, each in the form of a bowl of fruit in an ornamental dish. Peter Casteels, a Flemish painter of fruit and flower pieces, produced the original painted versions for Robert Furber, a nurseryman and gardener of Kensington, London.
The image is lettered with the name of the month and a numerical and alphabetical key to the fruits depicted such as apple varieties including Barnett, Kentish Pearmain, Old Wife, Yellow Pippin and Mashes John.
Apples in children's books
This is a collection of images relating to Apples in children's books
Henriette Browne, 'A Girl Writing'
Henriette Browne (1829-1901)
'A Girl Writing'
Oil on canvas
Museum no. 1083-1886
The girl seated at a table and writing holds a banker's pen and has before her a bottle of ink and a sheet of blotting paper. She is apparently copying out a handwriting exercise from a book propped in front of her. At this time good handwriting was considered very important and educators were highly prescriptive about what constituted the correct form and method of writing. Students were given examples of good handwriting to copy, with horizontal lines to keep their writing straight, and repeated the exercise to improve their skills.
Also on the table are two apples and a handful of wild flowers. A goldfinch is perched beside the girl on the table edge, and another is in the opened cage on the wall behind her.
Apples as a representation of the seasons
This is a collection of images relating to Apples as a representation of the seasons
Frederick Walker, 'Autumn Days'
Frederick Walker (1840-1875)
Illustration to 'Autumn Days' by Dora Greenwell (1821-1882), published in 'A Round of Days' (1866); 'Picture Posies' (1874); 'English Rustic Pictures' (1882).
Edited and engraved by the Dalziel Brothers
Museum no. E.2960-1904
The process of wood engraving required highly skilled craftsmen. It became the most popular form of book illustration in the mid-19th century. Wood engravings were engraved on dense boxwood blocks which were then set and printed together with the type. The Dalziel Brothers (active 1839-1905) was one of the most influential wood engraving, printing and publishing firms from the 1860s to the 1880s. In 1857 they founded the Camden Press so that they could print and publish fine art or gift books such as the Bible Gallery, for which this engraving was done. They also wood engraved and printed for many of the leading publishers and periodicals of the period, playing a vital role in the flourishing of black and white illustration in the 1860s. From 1871 to 1879 the Dalziels were also in charge of the illustrations and engraving of the Household edition of Charles Dickens (1812-1870).
Frederick Walker was commissioned by the Dalziel Brothers to produce a series of prints. They gave him free rein to choose his subjects and then had poems written to suit the images.
Thomas Riley, 'Gathering Apples'
Thomas Riley (active 1880s)
Published in Portfolio (Volume XIII, 1882)
Museum no. E.5153-1904
This print was published with the following caption: 'The association of human and vegetable forms is natural and happy; it is the union of the two greatest worlds of creation known to us, and it has been so valued and understood by the greatest artists of past times.'
Wenceslaus Hollar, 'Autumn'
Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)
Museum no. E.6143-1911
This print by Wenceslaus Hollar is one of a set of four etchings from a series 'The Four Seasons', each with a three-quarter length figure of a woman dressed appropriately for the time of year. The woman in this print depicts autumn. In her hand she holds an apple, a common pictorial reference to the season. It perhaps suggests other meanings too; the verses below the illustrations have erotic connotations and the apple can be perceived as the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and a symbol of worldly sin.
Anonymous, 'The Months of the Year - September'
'The Months of the Year - September'
Wood engraving by R & L Taylor
Museum no. E.7061-1888
This print is from a series showing the months of the year. Although the purpose of the series is unknown, it was probably intended for publication in a magazine or annual. The prints employ popular imagery and symbolism to create an easily recognisable character for each month. In this engraving the imagery underlines the link between women and nature that was so popular in the 19th century.
Frederick Walker, 'Autumn'
Frederick Walker (1840-1875)
Signed and dated 1865
Museum no. P.3-1911
Given by the executors of Sir William Agnew Bt.
There was a great vogue in the 19th century for images that depicted idealised rustic or seasonal settings. This is often interpreted as an escapist response to the upheavals of urbanisation and industrialisation. Many Victorian artists also specialised in sentimental interpretations of the historical past, producing works that were emotionally resonant but rarely true to period. The concept of one's personal past also formed part of visual imagery, with a focus on the more poignant life events: birth, childhood, marriage and death.
In this image it seems probable that Walker is referring not only to the passage of the seasons, but also to the passage of human life. The apple and tree have biblical connotations of Eve and the Tree of Knowledge.
The Orchard, William Morris and John Henry Dearl
William Morris (1834-1896) and John Henry Dearle (1860-1932)
Made by Morris & Co
Tapestry woven in wool, silk and mohair on a cotton warp
Museum no. 154-1898
The Orchard was William Morris's first attempt to design a figurative tapestry, inspired by the wish of rich clients to have unique works of art by him, and by the success of his firm of Morris & Co in producing fine tapestries designed by the artist Edward Burne-Jones. It depicts an array of fruit trees with their harvest ready for gathering, including apples, grapes, olives and pears, behind a row of figures in medieval-inspired dress.
The figures are holding a scrolling banner with a poem of Morris' own composing, written especially for the tapestry, and celebrating the bounty of the orchard, and the rhythm of the seasons.
A Woman with Children Gathering Apples, Samuel Percy
A Woman with Children Gathering Apples
Samuel Percy (1750-1820)
Wax in gilt wood frame
Museum no. A.12-1970
Samuel Percy was one of the most popular and prolific wax modellers of the late 18th and early 19th century in Britain and specialized in portrait waxes as well as genre scenes such as this one. Wax has been used to create a wide variety of works of art, from sketching out objects as small and detailed as a rosary bead to sculptures as large and powerful as a monumental marble by Giambologna. In addition it is a versatile sculptural material in its own right, exhibiting on a small scale arresting dramatic qualities and often astonishing verisimilitude.
Léon Augustin L'Hermitte, 'The Market Place of Ploudalmézeau
Léon Augustin L'Hermitte (1844-1925)
'The Market Place of Ploudalmézeau, Brittany'
Oil on canvas
Museum no. CAI.68
Léon Augustin L'Hermitte painted mainly scenes of peasant and rural life which he exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1864. Like many artists of this period he was fascinated by the traditional dress and way of life of the Bretons. The small town of Ploudalmézeau, France is near the coast of Finistère, at the western tip of Brittany. The painting shows smallholders in the market place selling their produce of apples, carrots and cabbages.
Paul Drury, 'September'
Paul Drury (1903-1987)
Museum no. E.3169-2004
Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund
© The Estate of Paul Drury
Strongly influenced by the imagery of both Samuel Palmer and Edward Calvert, 'September' is the most successful of all Paul Drury's landscapes. It exquisitely evokes the peace and fecundity of the English countryside, bathed in the rich glow of late evening sunlight, as two women and a child gather fallen fruit from beneath an apple tree. With meticulous craftsmanship, the artist took the print through 13 etched states and careful burnishing of the plate in order to achieve his effects of subtly glimmering light.
Apples as a Decorative Motif
This is a collection of images relating to Apples as a Decorative Motif
'The Fool, A is for Apple'
The Fool, A is for Apple
Museum no. E.277-2002
Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund
The Fool was a Dutch collective of designers, painters and musicians (Simon Posthuma, Marijke Koger, Barry Finch and Josje Leeger) who, in 1967, were part of the Beatles entourage. The collective had painted a John Lennon piano and a George Harrison guitar in psychedelic designs. In 1967 it was given the task of designing and stocking the Apple Boutique, a shop on Baker Street in central London set up by the Beatles and a part of their Apple Group. The Apple Boutique was open for less than a year, from 1967 to 1968, after losing money on the outlandish designs they sold.
This poster was designed by the Fool for the Boutique. The psychedelic imagery encapsulates the visual language associated with this period in popular culture with its acid-inspired visions.
C.F.A. Voysey, 'In my Orchard'
C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941)
'In my Orchard', design for a nursery textile or wallpaper
Process engraving coloured by hand
Museum no. E.333-1974
Charles Voysey was a prolific designer of wallpapers and textiles, many in Art Nouveau style but clearly influenced by Morris's principles of pattern design and use of plant forms and birds. However in an interview with 'The Studio' in 1893 (Vol.I , 1893, p.233), Voysey claimed that with good furniture 'a very simple or quite undecorated treatment of the walls would be preferable' and that wood panelling, polished, stained or painted, was a better wall covering than paper. Nevertheless the house he built for his father two years later was decorated with Voysey wallpapers and there is photographic evidence to show that he also used them in his own house, The Orchard.
'Antelope Dish', William de Morgan
William de Morgan (1839-1917)
Earthenware painted in ruby and yellow lustres
Museum no. 832-1905
This dish is one of the most celebrated of de Morgan's ceramics. Like all of his production other than tiles, it was made for show rather than for use. Although de Morgan returned to this image many times, and the dish itself was made in Staffordshire, it is a unique work. He bought the dish in as a blank and it was decorated and then re-fired at his own workshop. The plain, rimless shape was especially suitable for elaborate pictorial decoration such as this.
William de Morgan was a friend of William Morris, and designed stained glass and tiles for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. By 1873 he was running his own successful business.
Snuff box, unknown
West Midlands, England
Enamelled copper with chased gilt-metal mounts
Museum no. C.470-1914
This box was almost certainly a portable container for snuff. Snuff was formed from feremented tobacco mixed with various combinations of perfumed oils, herbs or spices into a compressed block, which was then grated to make a fine powder ready for inhalation. English painted enamel boxes with hinges linking lids to bases were a phenomenon of the 1740s.
The hinged enamel box came about because there was a demand for boxes which could be held open in one hand while taking a pinch of snuff with the other. The fashion for snuff-taking was at its height in the 18th century. Each panel of this box is deftly painted with groups of fruit and vegetables.
Ceramic plaque of a goatherd and goat, William Stephen Coleman
Ceramic plaque of a goatherd and goat
William Stephen Coleman (1829-1904)
Made by Minton, Stoke-on-Trent
Earthenware, painted in enamel colours
Museum no. Circ.207-1965
This painted earthenware plaque showing a goatherd restraining his charge from eating apples, was designed and decorated by William Stephen Coleman, the director of Minton's Art Pottery Studio in Kensington, London. The Studio had been set up in 1871 by Colin Minton Campbell of the Minton factory in Stoke-on-Trent, using the talents of the Royal School of Art to assist a small group of ceramic artists from Stoke in painting tiles and large dishes. In 1875 the Studio was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt.
Embroidered panel, unknown
Embroidered panel, probably for a casket
Silk-satin embroidered in silk and metal thread
Museum no. Circ.468-1925
This panel was probably intended for a casket. Decorated caskets were used by girls in the 17th century for storing small personal possessions. They were fitted inside with compartments, suitable for keeping jewellery, cosmetics, writing equipment and letters, needlework tools, tiny toys or keepsakes. They often had mirrors set into the lids, for dressing, and sometimes had secret drawers for particularly precious possessions.
The panel shows a female figure representing Taste, one of the Senses, reaching for apples from the basket at her feet. The most popular subjects for embroidered pictures and panels like these were scenes from the Old Testament and classical mythology, or the representation in human form of the Elements and the Seasons, the Virtues and the Senses. Figures might be copied directly from their original pictorial sources, but were often updated with fashionable clothes and hairstyles.
Dish or charger showing the Tree of Knowledge, John Pearson
Dish or charger showing the Tree of Knowledge
John Pearson (active 1885-1910)
Museum no. M.20-1976
This salver is decorated in the centre with an apple tree encircled by a serpent. Below the tree in Greek characters is the inscription 'The Tree of Knowledge'.
John Pearson was the first metalworker of the Guild of Handicraft founded by C.R. Ashbee at Toynbee Hall in the east end of London in 1888. Pearson was a skilled craftsman and designer, specializing in decorative repoussé work (the design on the front is shaped from the reverse side). Pearson finally left the Guild in 1891 to work on his own, having already once been dismissed and re-instated to the Guild for working for William Morris in his spare time.
Peg tankard, Hans Nieman the Elder
Hans Nieman the Elder (born about 1630, working 1679-1721)
Engraved silver and parcel gilt
Museum no. M.488-1910
This tankard is exquisitely engraved with apple trees, tulips, roses, exotic birds and the figures of a man and a young child. Decoration inspired by botanical drawings was very popular throughout Europe in the late 17th century. Tankards like this were marked inside with a series of pegs and would have been filled with wine or beer and passed around, each person having to drink until the next peg was showing.
Given the size of the tankard and each measure, it would have made it a challenge to stay sober. It might have been a christening present for Olle Jensson Bruun, the name inscribed on it. The origin of the phrase 'to take someone down a peg' apparently comes from peg tankards, in other words rudely drinking beyond one's measure.
Embroidered cushion cover, unknown
Embroidered cushion cover
Canvaswork applied to silk satin
Museum no. T.79-1946
In the 17th century the majority of wooden chairs and stools were not upholstered, and in more prosperous homes, decorated cushions were widely used both for comfort and for the attractiveness of their appearance. Long cushion covers like this were specifically made to fit wooden benches.
It is possible that this cushion was worked in a household rather than a professional workshop. More than one woman or young girl might have been involved in making the separate motifs, which were then applied to the silk ground. These individual motifs were known as slips, like the plant cuttings taken by gardeners. Such household furnishings often depicted scenes from rural life, and as well as the noblemen shown here hunting with hawks, we can also see gardeners at their work, gathering fruit and training vines in an orchard of apples, cherries and quinces.
Apples as food & drink
Apples as symbols
This is a collection of images relating to Apples as symbols
Florence Claxton, 'The Choice of Paris: An Idyll'
Florence Claxton (worked from 1859 to 1889)
'The Choice of Paris: An Idyll'
Museum no. E.1224-1989
Florence Anne Claxton produced this watercolour as a satire on the work and ideas of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of painters who were active between 1848 and 1853. It caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Portland Gallery in London (where the Pre-Raphaelites themselves had exhibited), and it was reproduced as a full-page spread in 'The Illustrated London News', a high-circulation national weekly magazine.
The satire is packed with references to members of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and their paintings. Here the artist John Everett Millais (1829-1896) plays the part of Paris choosing the most beautiful of the 'Three Graces'. According to mythology, the goddess of discord, Eris, threw a golden apple inscribed ‘to the fairest’ down to a wedding party attended by the gods, because she was angry at not being invited. The apple was given to the young Prince of Troy, Paris, to award to the most beautiful goddess. Here Millais as Paris is awarding the golden apple to an angular, medieval-style figure who represents the Pre-Raphaelite ideal.
The 'truth-to-nature' concept that formed the basis of most Pre-Raphaelite art is parodied by the man examining the surface of the outside wall with opera glasses.
Mark Edwards, 'Rotting Apples' from the series 'What Has Been Gathered Will Disperse'
Mark Edwards (born 1965)
'Rotting Apples' from the series 'What Has Been Gathered Will Disperse'
Museum no. E.399-2005
Purchased through the Cecil Beaton Fund
This image of rotten apples lying on a peacock blue carpet was taken in a family garden on a Norfolk nature reserve. The owners use pieces of old carpet, often donated by a neighbouring Buddhist retreat, to cover the ground and keep down the weeds. The decorative juxtaposition of the natural with the man-made moved Mark Edwards to record the carpet as it became integrated into the fabric of the garden. This photograph hints at ideas of contemplation and the passage of time.
Isaac Oliver, Two portrait miniatures depicting two girls
Isaac Oliver (about 1558-1617)
Two portrait miniatures depicting two girls; one aged four holding an apple and one aged five holding a carnation
Watercolour on vellum set in ivory frames
Museum no. P.145 and 146-1910
These miniatures are of two girls aged four and five. One holds an apple, the other a carnation. When these miniatures were made, only the well off could afford to have portraits painted. We do not know who these children were, but we may assume that they were sisters and that they came from a wealthy family. Isaac Oliver introduced distinguishing elements into these very similar images: the apple and carnation, the frown and the smile. It is possible that these symbols had a personal meaning for the family who commissioned the portraits, and they may not have been the artist's idea. In many paintings an apple (the fruit that Eve took from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden) stood for the biblical story of the Fall of Man. A carnation symbolised the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. But how these applied to these two girls is now unclear. The significance or otherwise of the ring is also unknown.
Alfred George Stevens, 'The Judgement of Paris'
Alfred George Stevens (1817-1875)
'The Judgement of Paris'
Oil on canvas
This painting is a cartoon for the south panel of the ceiling in the dining room of Dorchester House, Park Lane, London. The house was owned at the time by Sir George Holford but was later demolished to make way for the hotel of the same name.
The scene depicts the Judgement of Paris and the beginning of the chain of events leading to the fall of Troy. According to mythology, the goddess of discord, Eris, threw a golden apple inscribed ‘to the fairest’ down to a wedding party attended by the gods, because she was angry at not being invited. The apple was given to the young Prince of Troy, Paris, to award to the most beautiful goddess. Steven’s cartoon shows him offering the golden apple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Carlo Crivelli, 'Virgin and Child'
Carlo Crivelli (active 1457-1493)
'Virgin and Child'
Tempera on panel
Museum no. 492-1882
Although born and trained in Venice, Crivelli was forced to leave and settle in the town of Zara, and then went on to travel throughout the Italian Marches. Crivelli specialised in painting altarpieces. However the small size of this painting suggests it that was never part of an altarpiece, but intended for private devotion. As in other works by this artist, the various flowers and fruits have a symbolic as well as a decorative function. The carnation symbolises the Incarnation and Passion of Christ and the violet is one of many symbols of the Virgin. The apple symbolises death, as does the leafless tree in the right hand background, while the vine growing through it suggests the crucified Christ.
Anne Rook, 'The Book of Golden Delicious 4021 and 4020'
Anne Rook (born 1945)
'The Book of Golden Delicious 4021 and 4020'
Inkjet on blueprint paper
Printed and published in an edition of 100 by the artist
National Art Library pressmark 801.AF.00
Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund
The artist Anne Rook often uses found materials - specifically the kinds of printed stickers that appear on fruit and vegetables on sale in supermarkets. These stickers are known as Price-Look Up labels, and they are used to ensure that fresh produce is correctly priced at the till. Rook was fascinated by these labels with their coded data and bright colours, and she began not only to collect them, but also to scan them and print her own copies of them which she has used in various ways - for example to wrap and thus to brand apples and pears, and even trees. Her work is witty, but it also has a more serious point to make about the globalisation of food production and marketing, and the increasing blandness and industrialisation of food.
Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 'Garden of the Hesperides'
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
'Garden of the Hesperides'
Tempera and gilt on gesso
Museum no. Circ.525-1953
This represents the classical myth of the three daughters of Hesperus, who tended the dragon of Ladon and guarded the golden apples of Hera. However, Burne-Jones has reduced the number of daughters to two, apparently in the interests of symmetry. It provides an example of Burne-Jones's interest in classical form, especially in the treatment of the background and in the shapes of the ewer and harp. The scene is represented in low relief. Platinum, a white metal, was used in addition to the more common gold leaf in the gilding. The picture was made as an overmantel for a cottage in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
This scene, popular in Roman times, has obvious parallels with biblical imagery of the Garden of Eden. It has been suggested that this subject was the source of the idea that the apple was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge; in the bible itself the fruit is never explicitly identified.
Central part of a dish showing the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, unknown
Central part of a dish showing the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden
Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)
Museum no. 198-1887
The decorative vocabulary of maiolica or tin-glazed pottery reached its peak between the late 15th and the mid 16th century. The entire surface of a dish or a vessel could be covered with highly colourful narrative subjects. The scene in the centre of this dish, depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, is an example of this style of painting called istoriato (story painting) that started in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century. During this period potters produced wares of artistic sophistication and variety never seen before; these achieved a high status amongst some of the grandest Renaissance patrons who commissioned large istoriato table services to use and display in their homes.
Detail of an ivory of the Virgin and Child, unknown
Detail of an ivory of the Virgin and Child
Museum no. 4685-1858
The love of elegance for its own sake increasingly dominated European art at the beginning of the 14th century, a development which co-incided with an increasing emphasis on the human qualities of the Virgin Mary. This statuette depicts the Virgin as gentle and maternal, smiling down at her inquisitive son. In her right hand the Virgin holds a cylindrical object, the stem of a lily (now lost) which symbolised Mary's virginal state when her son was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The baby Jesus holds an apple in his hand, a symbol of the burden of the sins of mankind that Christ will bear.
Dish with the figure of Pomona, follower of Bernard Palissy
Dish with the figure of Pomona
Follower of Bernard Palissy
Earthenware, moulded, with coloured lead- glaze
Museum no. 7170-1860
Representing the popular subject of Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees and orchards, gave the artist here an excuse for including a wonderful array of cultivated flowers and gardening implements. In this dish by a follower of Bernard Palissy, Pomona is set against the backdrop of a magnificent French landscape garden. The image has been adapted from a Dutch print to produce a highly decorative display object.
'The Judgement of Paris', Jakob Auer
'The Judgement of Paris'
Jakob Auer (about 1645-1706)
Museum no. A.79-1951
The figures in this scene of the Judgement of Paris are framed by two trees which form two arches. Paris on the left is proferring Venus the golden apple. Cupid is between them. Juno and Minerva are in the background in lower relief. Throughout the ages artists and craftsmen have made virtuoso carvings as a display of their skill and ingenuity. Most of these carvings were made for wealthy patrons and collectors, who delighted in the rarity of the material and quality of the carving. This ivory relief gives a classicising and elegant interprertation of the subject. The pale, fine surface of the ivory perfectly suggests the flesh of the elongated nudes. The composition may well be based on an engraving.
Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Adam and Eve
Engraving on paper
Museum no. E.581-1940
Albrecht Dürer made many preparatory drawings for this print. Adam and Eve stand in pale contrast to the dark forest behind them; Eve is taking the fruit offered to her by the serpent, and Adam stretches out his arm to receive it from her. In the other hand Eve conceals a bitten apple. The details of the figures and foliage are exquisitely depicted in minute lines and cross-hatching. Both Adam and Eve have delicately depicted curling hair and they stand almost mirroring each other in their classical poses. This fine print displays the artist's virtuoso mastery of the engraving technique. It is the only print by Dürer to include his full name inscribed alongside the customary monogram (AD) and the date.
Brass dish showing the Fall of Man, unknown
Brass dish showing the Fall of Man
Brass, hammered in relief and stamped
Museum no. M.337-1924
The scene on this dish shows the Fall of Man, a popular subject on brass dishes of the 16th and 17th centuries. Depictions of this scene usually represent the Tree of Knowledge as an apple or fig tree. The serpent is typically shown twined round the trunk of the tree - a motif probably derived from the classical myth of the three daughters of Hesperus who tended the dragon of Ladon and guarded the golden apples of Hera.
European paintings of domestic interiors show that these brass dishes were frequently used in conjunction with brass lavabos (basins) or ewers for washing hands after a meal. However by the 17th century these dishes had become more decorative than functional and were made primarily for display on middle class buffets.
Lace panel showing Adam and Eve, unknown
Lace panel showing Adam and Eve
Needle lace with details in metal thread
Museum no. T.17-1909
The most popular subjects for the needlework pictures and panels to which this lace is related, were scenes from the Old Testament of the Bible and classical mythology. This piece includes various motifs which the maker, who has signed herself B.E.B., would have found in pattern books and which could have also been used for embroidery, particularly the animals, birds and flowers around the border.
This panel shows Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, they are the original human couple, parents of the human race. The inscription refers to their fall from grace after eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
Detail of a sampler showing Adam and Eve, anonymous
Detail of a sampler showing Adam and Eve
Linen embroidered with silk in cross, tent and satin stitch
Museum no. T.184-1921
Embroidering a sampler was part of a young girl's education in many European countries, providing her with instruction and practice in needlework skills. This sampler was made in Denmark in 1798. The decoration includes ornamental alphabets and pairs of initials, probably of the maker's family.
Samplers often included Biblical references, for their perceived moral value. The young girl who embroidered this has chosen to show the Temptation of Adam and Eve, taking fruit from the Serpent in the Tree of Knowledge.
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and John Henry Dearle (1860-1932)
Made by Morris & Co.
Tapestry-woven wool and silk on a cotton warp
Museum no. T.33-1981
In Roman mythology, Pomona was the goddess of fruit trees and orchards. Her name comes from the Latin word pomum, meaning fruit. Her story was told by the Latin poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses, in which she was pursued by the god Vertumnus, and the two lovers were popular subjects in painting and the decorative arts, including tapestry, in the 16th century and later.
William Morris considered tapestry 'the noblest of the weaving arts', and his firm of Morris & Co produced exceptional examples, with scenes of Arthurian legend, medieval romance, and mythology, like this piece. The account book of the artist Edward Burne-Jones shows that he was paid £25 by Morris & Co in 1882 for the figure of Pomona, his first design specifically for tapestry. The design was woven in several versions, with alternative backgrounds to the figure, and to different scale. In this version the flowers and fruit, including the branch of apples Pomona is holding, were designed by John Henry Dearle.
Detail of a carpet showing Adam and Eve, unknown
Detail of a carpet showing Adam and Eve
Hand-knitted woollen yarn
Museum no. T.375-1977
In the 18th century, to gain full membership of the Hand-Knitters' Guild of Strasbourg, journeymen knitters had to demonstrate their skill by producing masterpieces including a cap, a woollen jacket, a pair of gloves, and a wallhanging patterned with flowers, like this one.
This example was worked in stocking stitch on needles, or possibly a peg frame. Its maker is no longer known. Beneath a central panel depicting Jacob's Dream, from the Old Testament, Adam and Eve appear, in a Garden of Eden bursting with flowering plants, birds and beasts.