Category: Architecture

Pax Plantae

Nelumbo nucifera, or the lotus, is an aquatic plant known for its ability to grow from brackish, muddy swampland – and perhaps a little-known emblem for peace and purity in some regions of the world. It’s completely unrealistic, but the sentiment here is irresistible: ‘…According to Hindu philosophy, human beings ought to live like a lotus flower in this wily, unscrupulous world, completely detached and pure hearted, untouched by evil forces.’

Lotus_Flowers-_A_Landscape_Painting_in_the_Background_-_Martin_Johnson_Heade_-_Google_Cultural_Institute

Lotus Flowers with A Landscape Painting in the Background. c. 1885-1900. Martin Johnson Heade, North Carolina Museum of Art

In many Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, the lotus is used repeatedly to represent inner peace and purity in much spiritual illustration. The idea that filth and pollution can be transcended and separated from earthly degeneration by meditating upon the lotus flower is seductive, although we all know purity and cleanliness are more likely to be achieved with graft and chemical karma: rivers of elbow grease, a giant lakesworth of Mr. Muscle (other cleaning products are available) and several reservoirs of bleach. The chemical angle doesn’t work for the mind, unfortunately. In Buddhism, the lotus is said to represent total purity of body, mind and speech: duck-like, its repellent qualities see water droplets slide from the smooth surface of the petals like mercury.

Ravi_Varma-Lakshmi

The Hindu goddess Lakshmi holding & standing on a lotus, Raja Ravi Varma ‘Lotus (he 荷, lian 莲) The lotus is the flower of the sixth month and summer. It is a symbol of purity because it rises out of the mud to bloom. Lotus blossoms are often depicted as a throne for the Buddha, and the lotus is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism (ba jixiang 八吉祥).’

Jiezi_yuan_huazhuan_Lotus_Flowers,_Leaf_from_the_Mustard_Seed_Garden_Painting_Manual

Jiezi Yuan Huazhuan, Lotus Flowers (Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual)

‘Legend has it that the 14th day of June in the Chinese lunar calendar is the lotus’s birthday, commonly known as the Lotus Festival. This custom originated in the Song Dynasty (960-1279)’

There is an annual lotus festival in Guangzhou, China: ‘Guangzhou’s Fanyu District is the ideal location for this picturesque outdoor event, with its many waterways, ponds and lakes… The Lotus Flower Festival showcases over 280 different varieties of lotuses, with a total of around 15,000 individual flowers on display.’

The lotus is not just vital to Indian and Chinese depictions of inner peace and purity, but was also central to ancient Egyptian culture and symbolism. Because the flower closes at night and reopens at dawn, it was used repeatedly in the applied arts to symbolise rebirth and regeneration – an archetypal Egyptian preoccupation.

Egyptian_-_Lotus_Chalice_-_Walters_48414_-_View_B

Egyptian Lotus Chalice, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, USA

Probably a more universally recognised symbol of peace, the olive branch, inhabits the collective consciousness as a traditional peace offering.

Olea_europaea_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-229

Olea europaea, Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen 229, by Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen

‘Early Christian art often depicts a dove flying and holding an olive branch in its beak. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and it brings the olive branch (a symbol of peace) down to the people on Earth. Christian tradition also adds a dove carrying an olive branch to the story of Noah and his ark, a sign for Noah and his family that the flood and storm had finally ended after 40 days and 40 nights.’

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Olive Trees, Vincent Willem van Gogh

One of the oldest living olive specimens can be seen at the Garden of Gethsemane. Ironically, plumb in the middle of a religious conflict which has been going on for as long as I can remember.

One_of_the_oldest_olive_trees_in_the_Garden_of_Gethsemane.

One of the oldest olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, by Bogdan Kosar

Art Spot

Pablo Picasso, Colombe de L’Avenir 1962, featuring a dove carrying an olive branch.
Picasso was an active member of the communist party from 1944 until his death in 1973 and a dedicated advocate for peace:

‘In 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Picasso joined the Communist Party and became an active participant of the Peace Movement. In 1949, the Paris World Peace Conference adopted a dove created by Picasso as the official symbol of the various peace movements. The USSR awarded Picasso the International Stalin Peace Prize twice…’ Therein lies yet more irony.

Bed For Peace‘, performance by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969.
A useful article revisiting the impact of their performance can be found here.

Literary Corner

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Architecture

Sunset_at_Bahai_Temple_(Lotus_Temple)_Delhi_(2239117950) (1)

The Lotus Temple or Bahai House of Worship, New Delhi, designed by Fariborz Sahba

Blog Soundtrack

Imagine, by John Lennon

Organisations for Plants and Peace

Plant for Peace is an initiative designed specifically to assist rural communities and smallholder farmers in conflict and post conflict territories around the world to achieve food security and sustainable economic development thereby contributing to stability by empowering communities to become self sufficient through sustainable agriculture and trade.’

seedfreedom.info

Famous Pacifists

Ghandi
Sophie Scholl
Julia Ward Howe
Two Bobs – Dylan and Marley
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Mother Teresa
Jesus
Leo Tolstoy
John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Pablo Picasso
Albert Einstein
St. Francis of Assissi
Linus Pauling
Jane Addams
Joan Baez

Sources

arthistoryarchive.com
metmuseum.org
britishmuseum.org
indiaexchange.org
artetpaix.net
chinaculture.org
chinahighlights.com
imaginepeace.com
nobelprize.org
All images Wikimedia Commons, with the exception of ‘Peace Signed Official’ Headline from the Pall Mall Gazette, below (Imperial War Museum Archive)

Pace Paix Pax say Peace in every language

Pall_Mall_placard_Peace_Signed_28_June_1919

Placard for the Pall Mall Gazette. Refers to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Imperial War Museum, London Art.IWM PST 12972

Notes: The Nobel Peace Prize, first awarded in 1901, is an invaluable resource for finding out more about individuals and organisations widely considered to have made outstanding contributions to world peace.

 

 

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Cleopatra’s Garden

Officially it has now been British Summertime for some weeks. However I’m still reclining on the sofa in a cold-weather slump, wearing a zebra-print onesie and day-glo green legwarmers, wishing I hadn’t thrown away my worn out winter friendly yeti-slippers. I should be sashaying langourously in my resplendent garden dripping with lush fertile beauty, while being fanned by an unwaveringly devoted team of eunuch puckawallahs, anointed with platinum and gold-leaf paint, kohled to within an inch of my life, massaged, depilated, scrubbed, and generally worshipped in a fanatical and obsessive fashion. Needless to say I’m a notorious daydreamer and this is hardly likely to happen, even with the most benevolent of summers and the very best of future outcomes.

The nearest I can get is to run a steaming hot bath in my tiny bathroom overlooking the garden, open the window and apply as many exotic and fanciful unguents to my body and hair as I possibly can, preferably containing copious quantities of argan oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, orange oil, and other similarly beautifying and olfactory delights.

Should I suddenly transmogrify into a modern-day Cleopatra (for some reason I am channelling Kim Kardashian here) – and I could have a garden anywhere in the world, it would probably be in the one of the most fecund riverside regions imaginable, with a dreamy climate and the finest alluvial soil known to humanity. I wouldn’t marry Kanye though, just for the record.

The Heart Truth - Kim Kardashian backstage at The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection.

Kim Kardashian backstage at The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection

Somewhere a bit like ancient Egypt, perhaps? Mesapotamian Babylonia? Or maybe the Hanging Gardens of Basingstoke are a little more realistic – if quite a lot less glamorous. Glamorous they may not be, but interesting they most certainly are. The gardens are at Mountbatten House, Basingstoke and were built between 1974 and 1976. They have recently been added to English Heritage’s stable of postwar architecturally notable buildings and landscaped areas.

‘Director of designation at English Heritage Roger Bowdler said: “…These offices show how architecture has adapted to recent radical changes in how we work, they show how the open-plan working space for computer-led work came about, and how architects responded to the need for lettable, attractive spaces with ingenuity and a deep understanding of human needs.”‘ (HortWeek, Jan 28 2015)

Enough of Basingstoke. Onwards to my palace. No self-respecting Egyptian (or Basingstoke) Queen could go without a fig or two (Ficus carica) and I would have to have figs that looks as good as they taste, so I would have a whole palace wall full of Ficus carica ‘Panache’.

Fig 'Panache'

Fig ‘Panache’

I would alternate ‘Panache’ with a dark purple, brunette bruise of a fig like Ficus ‘Violette De Solliès’ as a brooding counterpoint to the blonde elegance of Panache. I would only want impeccably pruned fruit from trees inspired by other royal palaces, though, and I would be far too busy pampering myself for gardening. So I’d employ a team of gardeners to do a West Dean Gardens job in the walled garden (in this case, the pruning was inspired by a visit to the Potager de Roi at Versailles). But I might have to interfere from time to time in a regal manner.

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Fruit tree pruning at West Dean Gardens, April 2015, Photo by Holly Allen

As Queen, you have many responsibilities, so it would obviously be impossible to survive without getting elegantly wasted from time to time. Or at least wasted. For this you would need a vineyard, full of the choicest grape varieties known to man. It simply wouldn’t be seemly to go without impossibly huge dripping bunches of grapes with dewy-fresh bloom to decorate your solid gold table receptacles. And, of course, for your minions to feed to you in front of the company.

Vitis vinifera

Vitis vinifera

The next royal plant would have to be the pomegranate (Punica granatum, literally meaning many-seeded apple, or pome) -only matched in beauty by its immense mythological and symbolic reputation. I would have a grove of these. Preferably on a gentle slope, so I could enjoy the jewel-like ornamentation of the fruits, dripping down the hillside. I’d have rare Iranian black pomegranates interspersed here and there for a little variety. Legend has it that monks in medieval Yorkshire managed to grow black pomegranates in walled courtyard gardens before the Reformation and inspired some of the beverages associated with the Temperance Movement, including Hebden Bridge ‘Black Pome Mead’*

Pomegranates not only look incredible in flower and in fruit, but they are also a superfood stuffed to the brim with antioxidants, essential for detox. I might even be impelled to wallpaper my dressing room with Morris lemon and pomegranate print in reverence.

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Punica granatum, Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Pomegranate_waterdrops

Before the detox, I would get my personal mixologist to work on my cocktails – using real grenadine for my Tequila Sunrise, of course. All you need to know about pomegranates can be found here. (I could elucidate, but that’s another post).

After all that booze, a girl needs a bit of body maintenance the morning after the night before. So I would ask my mixologist for a Shirley Temple, then I’d send my Moroccan beauty guru out to the Argania spinosa grove, which would be within a stone’s throw of the palace so my minions could whip up a few artisan argan oil hair products to make my tumbling locks shinier and silkier than the surface of the Nile at twilight.

Argan tree, Tighrassen, by F.Benotman

Argan tree, Tighrassen, by F.Benotman

I would also have to have citrus groves. You cannot have cocktails without citrus fruits – so a grove of oranges, lemons and limes would be de rigeur. These would be perfect for vitamin C after all that overindulgence, not to mention indispensible for making a myriad of cleansing balms and lotions. My grounds would not be complete without a brace of Prunus dulcis and persica, to provide me with almond milk and peach kernel oil for my delicate complexion; not to mention some more very tasty fruit and nuts.

Cyperus papyrus

Cyperus papyrus

When my primping and preening was complete for the day, I  may consider turning my attentions to affairs of the heart. Then I would send one of my messengers on a love quest with paper made from Cyperus papyrus; love letters for only the most privileged of my devoted admirers. Cyperus would look beautiful submerged in a rill in my interior courtyard, too.

Phoenix dactylifera

Phoenix dactylifera

Neither could I forego Phoenix dactylifera. I would have as many dates as possible, to furnish my palace with stately and imposing palms and to keep a girl at leisure properly occupied and entertained in the manner befitting. Just call me HRH.

A few more regal plants I could not be without:

Indigofera, for fabric dye.
Alliums, for ornamentation, dye, flavourings and for medicinal preparations.
Coffea arabica. Enough said.
Theobroma cacao. Ditto.
Lilium sp, for cut flowers.
Piper nigrum, for spicing things up.
Vanilla planifolia, for perfume and flavouring sweet dishes.
Cocos nucifera, for beauty products and flavouring.
Olea europea, for oil, olives and beauty products.
Salix alba, for aspirin – after all those goblets of wine and grenadine cocktails.

*This is complete balderdash, unfortunately. I wish it were true. NB The actual ‘Temperance Movement’ – not to be confused with one of these new-fangled bands, as the equally new-fangled Google and YouTube might suggest. Kids today *tuts*

Track of the Month

Queen,Killer Queen’

Book of the Month

Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare.

Art Spot

Cleopatra_by_Gustave_Moreau

‘Cleopatra’ by Gustave Moreau

William Morris lemon and  pomegranate print wallpaper

William Morris lemon and pomegranate print wallpaper