Project 3 (Reading visual communications) – Exercise 1

What does this apple mean?

All of these images contain a common signifier, namely an apple. The meaning or idea that is represented by each apple, however, might be different. Below each image, I will list what I think is being signified and then reflect on this range of meanings.

Venus Verticodia, 1864-68 (oil on canvas), Rossetti, Dante Gabriel / Wikipedia
  • love
  • lust
  • temptation
  • forbidden fruit
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, c.1520-25 (oil on wood)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, c.1520-25 (oil on wood), Cranach, Lucas, the Elder (1472-1553) / Museo Soumaya, Mexico City, Mexico / Wikimedia
  • temptation
  • knowledge
  • fall of man
  • sin

Polyptych of the Cathedral of Saint Emygdius, Pietà, Madonna and Child, eight saints, 1473, tempera on board, Crivelli, Carlo / Bridgeman Images

  • relationship to fall of man – different context
  • redemption
  • future saviour

Daphnis giving an Apple to Chloe, Zucchi, Antonio / Bridgeman Images

  • love
  • romantic pursuit / persuasion
  • gift
Fresh as Morning Dew, 1944, Old Gold / Stanford
  • fresh
  • nature
  • healthy
Golden Apple of Discord, 1633, oil on canvas, Jordaens, Jacob (1593-1678) / Wikimedia
  • gift
  • cause of conflict
  • divinity
  • beauty
Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009  øðä îàâøéè, áðå ùì àãí, 1964, øñèåøöéä ò"é ùîòåï éðåáéõ, 2009
The Son of Man, 1964, oil on canvas, Magritte, René (1898-1967) / Wikipedia
  • secrecy
  • allusion to fall of man
  • green (unripe, innocence, envy, bitter)
Domino Sugar, 1953 / Life, Mother Jones
  • sweet, sugary
  • association with healthy
  • used for comparison, more “fattening” than product being sold
The Witch offering Snow White the Poisoned Apple, 1937, Walt Disney Productions / Disney Wiki
  • temptation
  • evil, curse
  • innocence

Green Apples, 1921 (oil on canvas, Johnstone, Dorothy / Bridgman Images

  • green
  • youth, innocence
  • beauty
  • life
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, 1978, Apple Computer, Inc. / Computer History Museum
  • simple, basic, minimal
  • sophisticated
  • innovation

Newton and the apple (litho), Rainer, Paul (20th century) / Bridgeman Images

  • knowledge
  • innovation, new ideas, inspiration
  • intelligence

There are definitely some common ideas shared between these images about what the apple symbolises. It is recurrently used as a symbol of temptation, knowledge, lust and sin. As I looked for examples of apples in art history, I learned that the words apple and evil are incredibly similar in Latin, a fact that might shed some light as to why the apple, specifically, is represented as the forbidden fruit.

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 5.42.25 PM

Some other common themes, generally found in a more modern context, include health, freshness, and simplicity. The common phrase of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is an example of this. This association of apples with healthiness seems to be often exploited for commercial purposes.



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