Florence Claxton, 'The Choice of Paris: An Idyll', watercolour, 1860. Museum no. E.1224-1989
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', photograph, 2004. Museum no. E.399-2005
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, watercolour, 1590. Museum no. P.145 and 146-1910
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', oil painting, about 1860. Museum no. P.15-1975
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', panel, about 1480. Museum no. 492-1882
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', print, 2002. National Art Library pressmark 801.AF.00
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', panel, 1870-77. Museum no. Circ.525-1953
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, about 1525. Museum no. 198-1887
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, about 1320-1330. Museum no. 4685-1858
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, about 1600. Museum no. 7170-1860
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, about 1700. Museum no. A.79-1951
'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, 1504. Museum no. E.581-1940
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, about 1600. Museum no. M.337-1924
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, 1600-1650. Museum no. T.17-1909
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, 1798. Museum no. T.184-1921
Detail of a sampler showing Adam and Eve, unknown, 1798. Museum no. T.184-1921
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.
'Pomona', tapestry, Sir Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle. Museum no. T.33-1981
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, 1781. Museum no. T.375-1977
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.