Botanical and Horticulture Photography PALM SYMBOLISM 4

Botanical and Horticulture Photography PALM SYMBOLISM 4

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19. In this same edition of the Biblia Pauperum

the palm is also, strangely enough, placed in

the hand of Christ in the Ecce Homo; the reed

in His right hand set there in mockery, changed

to the victor’s palm.

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20. Occasionally the palm is given to the angel

Gabriel when he comes from Heaven to announce

the Saviour’s approaching birth. “Ave” is

his salutation to the Virgin, and in Roman

fashion, as in salutation to a queen, he kneels

with a lifted palm.

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21. Spinello Aretino paints Gabriel with the

palm. In his Annunciation at Arezzo ‘ the

angel is first seen above, flying with the palm

from before God’s throne. Below he kneels,

the palm in his hand, before the Virgin. Ambrogio

Lorenzetti and others follow the same

tradition, but the palm was soon superseded

in Siena by the olive and elsewhere by the lily,

which was adopted by painters of all nations as

the flower of the Annunciation.

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22. The Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine

gives an account of the death and burial of the

Virgin. The legend is said to be an invention

of the Gnostics, and there is reason to believe

of Lencius in the second century.

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23. Shortly before the Virgin’s death the angel

Gabriel again appeared to her, and he gave

her a branch of palm from Paradise which he

commanded should be borne before her bier.

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24. This branch of palm was clearly the symbol

of victory over sin, since she had passed a full

lifetime in perfect sinlessness and her surpassing

sorrows had entitled her to the reward of

martyrdom.

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25. The Legend continues: “And the palm shone which he had left

behind with great clearness; it was green like

a natural branch and its leaves shimmered like

the morning star”. The palm, therefore, is

distinguished from the palms of the martyrs

by being encircled with stars. A Sienese artist

paints seven, the sacred number, corresponding

with the Virgin’s sorrows; other artists

give twelve, foreshadowing that there should be

upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

26. Usually, in Italian pictures of the death or

Dormition of the Virgin, an angel, or Saint John

the Evangelist, appears at her bedside carrying

the palm. Northern art was almost entirely

uninfluenced by the details given by Jacobus

de Voragine of the Virgin’s death and burial,

and though in Germany The Death of the

Virgin is a very favourite subject, the palm is

never introduced. Saint John frequently, however,

holds a lighted taper, and some form of

the starry palm tradition may have drifted

northwards, for the master of the Sterzing Altar

paints a cluster of star-shaped flowers in the

hand of Saint John, who bends over the inanimate

form of the Virgin.

27. Her body was carried by divine command

to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and John bare

the palm branch in front of it.

28. This scene, too, belongs to Italian art, and

usually makes a beautiful processional group.

Saint John, with the privilege of a son, walks

before the bier. Duccio di Buoninsegna paints

him with the closed narrow palm of a martyr.

In the charming little long-shaped picture by

Fra Angelico the palm has its fan-shaped

leaves spread wide and it shines as if it were of

gold.

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29. In the Immaculate Conception

of the Spanish school one of the attendant putti usually

carries a palm. This may be the palm of victory

over sin and death, or, following another

authority, it may be a symbol of the Immaculate

Conception, since it bears fruit at the same

moment at which it flowers.

30. According to Dr Anselm Salzer, O.S.B.,

The palm, when referring to Mary, is a figure

of her victory over the world and its temptations,

of her everlasting virtue, of her sovereignty

in heaven, of the protection that she offers to

mankind, of her triumphant motherhood and

of the beauty of her soul.

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