Saturday, April 11, 2009

An Easter Story

Still Life with Lemons, Oranges, and a Rose (1633 Spain), Francisco de Zurbaran, housed in The Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA.

Hard to believe, but this is actually a painting about Easter.

What we see is only a small part of the scene. We see the obvious - lemons, oranges, a rose, a cup and two plates on a table. There's no crucifix, no Roman soldiers, nor disciples, no thieves; so, how could this possibly have anything to do with the Christian Easter story?

Let's read the painting starting with the Rose and the Cup. The Rose is a traditional symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The cup or vessel, is the womb of the mother. The vessel contains water signifying purity and the liquid with which Christians are baptized into the faith.

The Lemons, a sour fruit, represent the bitterness at the loss and death of The Christ, Jesus.

Both of these elements are presented on metal plates as offerings, much as the offering plates seen in many churches today. They are set on a table serving as an alter.

The Oranges, unlike the lemons, are painted with stems and flowers. The orange blossoms represent the rebirth as they return after each winter from a seemingly dead tree. The oranges are the sweet fruit that is the Love of Christ.

In 1633, most people were illiterate. The paintings contained stories that were readily available to the unlettered; every peasant who had heard the Bible stories could "read" the painting's story as well as any priest or scholar. We see the paintings today and they are just pretty pictures and are amazed by some authority or author who discovers the secrets and clues "hidden" by crafty artists disguising messages from the Church. There is no secret but to the uninitiated. And now you know what the Spanish peasants knew.

Happy Easter...

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


Mike's America said...

We've come a long way in terms of literacy but lost the literacy of symbolic meaning at the same time.

Happy Easter Indigo!

Indigo Red said...

And with it goes 90% of our heritage. Heck, Mike, most folks don't even know what the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" means anymore.

suek said...

Heh. We do...we have a lighting store. We have frequent customers looking for obscure parts for antique lamps they want to repair. All sorts of gizmos and whatchamacallits required. If you know the right name, you can probably find it's getting the right name in the first place that's the kicker! Catalogs make _great_ "picture books"!! and a single picture is indeed worth a thousand words! Especially since your thousand words may not conjure up the same picture in my mind as it does in yours!

Also..."The Twelve Days of Christmas" was also a Christian bible lesson...I don't remember all the various symbols...I know that the 12 days were the 12 apostles, and the partridge in the pear tree was Jesus...but I don't remember the rest...
It's probably on line somewhere...

Indigo Red said...

You are right, suek. And here are the 12 gifts and their meaning:

True Love refers to God

1 Partridge in a pear tree refers to Jesus the Christ
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed