Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Carnations in Art

Unknown Artist's Drawing of Four Carnations, ca. 1840, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Nature

Carnations in Art

Carnations have been called the flower of the gods and have a long history that dates back thousands of years. This beautiful flower has many meanings and stories associated with it in different corners of the world. 

Albert York, Landscape with two pink carnations in a glass goblet
Carnations in Art: Albert York, Landscape with Two Pink Carnations in a Glass Goblet, ca. 1983, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA.

For example, some of its significant roles include: being the symbol of the labor movement, the official flower of Spain and Slovenia, first anniversary flowers, remembrance of World War II veterans in the Netherlands, a wedding flower in China, a funerary flower in France, and the revolutionary flower of the proletariat in the Soviet Union!

Carnations in Art: Traditional greeting card with the red carnations. Soviet Art website.

The first carnations were shipped to the US from France in 1852. Since then, they have become the most popularly gifted flower after roses. Apart from their captivating beauty, the flowers have been used for many purposes. For instance, carnation oil is used in beauty products. The flowers can be brewed into tea, something known to help restore energy and reduce stress. Additionally, carnations have captivated the hearts of many artists across different media and continents.

Pierre Bonnard, Carnations
Carnations in Art: Pierre Bonnard, Carnations, ca. 1921, private collection, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Diana, Goddess of the Hunt

According to an early legend, Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt was returning home one day, angry after an unsuccessful hunting trip. She stumbled upon a shepherd, who was playing Diana’s flute. As a result, this deeply enraged her and she was prompted to attack the poor shepherd, ripping out his eyes. However, after a while, when she had calmed down, Diana regretted her actions. Consequently, where the eyes of shepherd had fallen, red carnations emerged.

Henry Scott Tuke
Carnations in Art: Henry Scott Tuke, Carnations – a study, ca. 1890, private collection. Source: Bonhams.

Official Flower of Mother’s Day


In 1907, the Mother of Mother’s Day, social activist Anna Jarvis, chose her mother’s favorite flower, the carnation, to be the emblem of Mother’s Day. She chose the color white to represent the purity of a mother’s love. Over the years, the tradition of giving carnations continued though different meanings evolved. For example, A red carnation now represents a mother who is still living, while a white carnation symbolizes a mother who is deceased.

Oda Kazuma
Carnations in Art: Oda Kazuma, Carnation, ca. 1922, Japanese, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA.

It is believed that Anna Jarvis may also have chosen the carnation because in the Christian tradition, carnations are associated with the Virgin Mother.  According to the legend, when Mary saw her son Jesus carrying the cross she shed tears. These tears turned into carnations when they touched the ground –  making them a symbol of a mother’s undying love.

Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna of the Carnation. Shows Mother Mary and Baby Jesus. Mother Mary is holding a carnation flower in her hand.
Carnations in Art: Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna of the Carnation, ca. 1478, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

Ye Shepherds Tell Me


Carnations have inspired many poets, artists, and authors. The inspiration for this painting by John Singer Sargent came from the following verse of Joseph Mazzinghi’s popular song Ye Shepherds Tell Me.

Ye Shepherds tell me,
Tell me have you seen,
Have you seen My Flora pass this way?
In shape and feature beauty’s queen,
In pastoral, in pastoral array.
A wreath around her head,
around her head she wore,
Carnation, lily, lily, rose,
And in her hand a crook she bore,
And sweets her breath compose.

John Singer Sargent, Carnation Lily Lily Rose, two girls in a garden of flowers
Carnations in Art: John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, ca. 1885, Tate Britain, London, UK.


If you want to look at more beautiful flowers, have a look at:

Art, history, mythology, and dachshund enthusiast from New Delhi, based in Los Angeles.

Comments

More in Nature

  • Post-Impressionism Post-Impressionism

    20th century

    Post-Impressionism: Artists, Paintings, and Everything You Need to Know

    By

    The term “Post-Impressionism” combines the oeuvre of many artists. In this article, we will tell you about four prominent masters who are most associated with the art movement – Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cezanne. DailyArt Magazine has gathered everything you need...

  • Artist

    Arcimboldo’s Allegories of the Seasons

    By

    Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings of the four seasons have astonished audiences from the sixteenth century to this day. Even though, allegorical representations are quite common in the history of art, Arcimboldo’s portraits manage to capture the spirit of each season in a bizarre and unique way. In...

  • Artist

    Botero and His Characteristic Chubby Style: Boterism

    By

    Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, demonstrates how differently we can all view the same object. Although, Botero is known for creating thick fat looking figures in his art, he argues that his intention isn’t to represent weighty figures. Instead, his aim is to give prominence to volume....

  • 21st century

    Traversing the Unseen: Interview with Multi-Media Artist Sara Osebold

    By

    Sara Osebold (b. 1975) is a contemporary, multi-media artist who creates drawings and sculptures and is based in Seattle. The artist’s work takes us on a sensory journey adding a dose of visual medicine. Mixed media drawings are fused together with ink, mica, graphite, clay, pigments, etc....

  • dailyart

    Allegories of Autumn – A Top Ten of Sensational Symbolic Artworks

    By

    What does Autumn mean to you? Traditionally it meant the abundance of the harvest, a celebration of ripeness and maturity. Museums and galleries are full of paintings which pay tribute to this theme showing the Allegories of Autumn. But to our modern eyes, the allegorical symbols...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy