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.

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Venus Verticodia, 1864-68 (oil on canvas), Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Charles (1828-82) / Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, UK / Supported by the National Art Collections Fund / Bridgeman Images
  • 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 / Bridgeman Images
  • temptation
  • knowledge
  • fall of man
  • sin
Polyptych of the Cathedral of Saint Emygdius, Pietà, Madonna and Child, eight saints (Polittico del duomo di Sant'Emidio. Pietà, Madonna col Bambino, otto santi), by Crivelli Carlo, 1473, 15th Century, tempera on board
Polyptych of the Catherdal of Saint Emygdius, Pietà, Madonna and Child, eight saints, 1473, 15th Century, tempera on board, Crivelli, Carlo (c.1430/35-1495) / Mondadori Portfolio/Electa/Domenico Oddi / Bridgeman Images
  • relationship to fall of man – different context
  • redemption
  • future saviour
Daphnis giving an Apple to Chloe
Daphnis giving an Apple to Chloe, Zucchi, Antonio (1726-95) / Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, UK / National Trust Photographic Library / Bridgeman Images
  • love
  • romantic pursuit / persuasion
  • gift
air_20
Fresh as Morning Dew, 1944, Old Gold / Stanford
  • fresh
  • nature
  • healthy
Golden_Apple_of_Discord_by_Jacob_Jordaens
Golden Apple of Discord, 1633, oil on canvas, Jordaens, Jacob (1593-1678) / Wikimedia Commons
  • 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)
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Domino Sugar, 1953 / Life, Mother Jones
  • sweet, sugary
  • association with healthy
  • used for comparison, more “fattening” than product being sold
snow
The Witch offering Snow White the Poisoned Apple, 1937, Walt Disney Productions / Disney Wiki
  • temptation
  • evil, curse
  • innocence
Green Apples, 1921 (oil on canvas)
Green Apples, 1921 (oil on canvas, Johnstone, Dorothy (1892-1980) / Private Collection / Bridgman Images
  • green
  • youth, innocence
  • beauty
  • life
Apple.II.1977.102637933.fc.lg
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, 1978, Apple Computer, Inc. / Computer History Museum
  • simple, basic, minimal
  • sophisticated
  • innovation
Newton and the apple (litho)
Newton and the apple (litho), Rainer, Paul (20th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / 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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