Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Musa Paradisiaca, 1701-1705

Musa Paradisiaca
Maria Sibylla Merian
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Bertie and I are getting a slow start today.  I suppose it's because we have so much to do...so much, in fact, that you could say we're going..."bananas."

And, thus begins the theme day that I promised yesterday.

Let's start with this lovely piece from The Royal Collection.

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) painted this brilliant watercolor between 1701 and 1705.  The watercolor and body-color has been washed over vellum which has been lightly etched with the outlines of the composition of a branch of bananas.  The branch of "Musa paradisiaca" displays the large red flower, a bright green, fuzzy-wuzzy caterpillar and the patterned brown moth which the caterpillar will be when it emerges from its dark chrysalis.

This handsome piece was acquired by King George III,  King of the United Kingdom (1738-1820) while still Prince of Wales.  The Prince Regent/future debauched King had a long-standing love of the exotic, and found such botanical watercolors of plants and trees from far-flung places to be most appealing.

Merian painted this and other botanicals while visiting the Americas.  The banana tree is not indigenous to the Americas, having been transplanted there from south-east Asia by Spanish explorers  who cultivated the trees for their fruit. Merian described this unfamiliar, exotic fruit thusly: "it is used like an apple, and has a pleasant flavour like apples in Holland; it is good both cooked and raw."

I concur.

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