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Fruits. The Image and the Symbol

Nature generously endows a human being with its fruits. From time immemorial the fruit play an important part in the world outlook of the mankind. The orchard with the altar of Venus is a popular image in the antique art. Putti play in this garden and collect there sacred apples of love. Heracles, a hero of antique mythology, being in the service of the king of Mycenae Eurystheus and making his heroic deeds, obtained golden apples from the garden of Hesperides, "daughters of the Night". The motif of the golden apples probably goes back to the tradition according to which the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden was an apple-tree.

The serpent induced Eve to try the fruits of the tree of knowledge by saying:"Thy eyes will open, and you will be like gods". Thus an apple became a symbol of the Fall. During the Renaissance in the pictures representing Madonna with Child an apple in the Hands of Jesus Christ indicates that He saved the mankind from the first-born sin. The Virgin here is the second Eve who redeemed the the sin of the original mother of the mankind.

The traditional attribute of Christ is grape - the symbol of the sacrifice for the sins and of the sacrament. Cherries give a hint of the possibility for the righteous men to obtain the Paradise in the Heavens instead of the Eden lost as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Grapes and cherries together symbolize death and resurrecion of Christ.

Fruits in the still-lifes of the 17th century often have symbolic meaning. They remind about passions of Christ and resurrection, about perishable nature of the earthly life. Thus an apple, a pomegranate, grapes and nuts appear in the allegoric still-lifes of that time. In Flemish art of the 17th century the motif of abundance and generosity of nature is brilliantly depicted in the widely spread pictures on the subject of the allegory of seasons. Painters of the 19th-20th centuries, striving to reveal symbolic meaning of the depicted objects of a still-life, endow the images of fruits with particular symbolism.


Statue of Heracles
Roman copy from a Greek original
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The Virgin and Child Under an Apple Tree
Cranach, Lucas, I

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Virgin and Child
Master of the Female Half-Lengths

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Stiil life with Cherries and Cheese
Plepp, Joseph

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Still life with a Curtain
Cezanne, Paul

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Fruit Stall
Snyders, Frans
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