We’re officially still in the winter season, but you may also begin to notice more birdsong. Millions of migrant birds 🙂 leave to go back to Scandinavian or Eastern European countries, while others arrive. When does spring come? Today, I have noticed few snowdrops and iris Eye-Catcher. A very well-deserved name for this attractive Dwarf Iris, pristine white flowers, strikingly adorned with rich blue markings and brilliant yellow crest onto each fall. We know the wildest iris are blue or purple but there are 325 species of the iris flower.However, the genus was only created in 1753 by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. During the 16th and 17th centuries, a much smaller number of plants bore the name of Iris. The oldest story about the iris is from 1479 B.C. when an Egyptian king, Thutmose lll, returned home after conquering Syria. To commemorate his conquests he had pictures of irises and other flowers from his conquered lands drawn on the walls of a temple.
In prehistoric India and Egypt, the iris symbolized life. Iris was considered to be symbols of thunder – one of Horus’ destructive powers. As it was believed that the Egyptians, later these flowers were considered to manifest protection of life employed the weapon of thunder. The Egyptians were of the belief that the three petals of these flowers represented wisdom, faith and valour. As the iris was considered to be a symbol of authority, people used the flower to adorn the pharaohs’ funeral temples. The ancient Egyptians were of the view that doing so will help to conserve the powers of their pharaohs in their next life. The Egyptians, as well as the Babylonians, were making their own version of a toothbrush by fraying the ends of twigs. These “toothsticks” were discovered in tombs beside the mummified remains of their owners dating back to 3500 BC. What’s even more astonishing is that 1,500 years prior to this, Egyptians were using a paste to clean their teeth.In the National Library in Vienna, Austria lies a collection of papyrus documents containing the world’s oldest-known recipe for toothpaste. The formula, which consists of the dried iris flower, salt, pepper, and mint, are described as being ahead of its time given that iris is an effective agent against gum disease. Surprisingly, researchers have only recently discovered iris’s beneficial properties validating the innovative brilliance of the ancient Egyptians.Iris in the Greek word means rainbow from which the name of the goddess-messenger Iris was derived. Goddess Iris married Zephyrus, who represented the west wind and travelled on the arc of the rainbow bringing the ancient god’s messages as well as commands to mankind. What a beautiful story. The goddess Iris as a link between heaven and earth. She used the rainbow to make her journey. Iris was specially loved by Hera, whom ancient Romans called Juno. Even to this day, the Greeks follow the custom of planting iris on the graves of their woman with the belief that the Goddess Iris would come and guide the souls of this deceased woman to their final place of resting.
In the mural of Akrotiri (Xeste 3, ground-floor, on Thera, 17th century BC) Euridice, the wife of Orpheus, was shown fleeing from Aristaios’ aggression across a meadow. Bitten by a venomous snake, she has an iris flower at her collar as a symbol of her approaching death.
In ancient Greece and Rome, Orris Root was largely used in perfumery, and Macedonia, Elis and Corinth were famous for their unguents of Iris. Theophrastus and Dioscorides were well acquainted with Orris Root; Dioscorides and Pliny remark that the best comes from Illyricum (now modern Dalmatia). Probably I. Germanica is the Illyrian Iris of the ancients, as it is plentiful there and I. Florentina and I. pallida do not occur. The latter was probably introduced into Northern Italy in the early Middle Ages.
The ancient arms of Florence – a white Lily or Iris on a red shield – seem to indicate that the city was famed for the growth of these plants. A writer of the thirteenth century, Petrus de Crescentiro of Bologna, mentions the cultivation of the White, as well as of the Purple Iris, and states at what season the root should be collected for medicinal use. During the Roman Empire, some iris species have derived their names from the territories that were crossed by the army of Alexander the Great during its eastward march up to India way back in the fourth century B.C. Some such iris species include Iris Kashmiriana and Iris Mesopotamia. There are a number of iris species, which were collected during the same period, and their names represent the ancient colonies Greeks set up on Turkish shores – such as Iris Cypriana, Iris Trojana and Iris Junonia.By contrast, in ancient Japan, the blue Japanese iris called Iris Ensata was a symbol of bravery.
On the other hand, the Christians there is a legend that says that once there was a knight who was so forgetful that he never remembered more than just two words “Ave Maria” from the Latin prayer in the honour of the Virgin Mary or the Holy Mother. The knight was very pious, but every night and day, he completed his prayers only with these two words Ave Maria. Several years later, the knight became very old and died. He was buried in a convent’s chapel yard. Below on slides: Conservator’s examination of The Madonna with the Iris ( Workshop of Albrecht Dürer, (The Virgin and Child ), about 1500–10) was able to clarify, to some degree, the complex genesis of this work. Careful study of the infrared reflectogram revealed many changes made at different stages in the working process and suggested that more than one hand might have been involved in the painting’s execution. Analysis of paint cross-sections showed that some finishing touches were added after varnish had been applied to the otherwise completed painting.
Soon an iris (or fleur-de-lis) plant came up on his grave proving that Virgin Mary had accepted his brief, but truthful supplications. The iris also turned into heraldic symbols – insignia of a government and widely used in flags, tapestries, armours and shields. In the early days, these types of symbols, such as the iris, fish, beasts and birds, were just useful in identifying friends and foes, especially during the medieval period when the knights generally encased themselves in armours.
Iris was mentioned for the first time in French at the year A.D. 496 when Clovis l was fighting an important battle and found himself trapped on one side by the opposing army and the other side by a broad river. Clovis’s queen was a devout Christian and had been begging him for years, without success, to convert to Christianity. When Clovis found himself trapped, he prayed to the Christian god and promised if he got out of this predicament that he would convert and urge his followers to do the same. As he finished the prayer, according to the legend, Clovis looked out across the river and saw a yellow flag iris growing midway across. He realized that the river must be shallow if the iris could grow there. He took it as a sign from God and marched his army across the shallow river to victory. Keeping his promise, Clovis l and 3,000 of his followers converted to Christianity on Christmas Day of that year.
In medieval panel painting and tapestry, the iris plant was used as an amulet protecting against the cunning and power of the devil. St Brigitta of Sweden (1307–1373) mentioned the sharp edges and tips of the iris leaves as symbolizing the pain of the Virgin Mary. Throughout the ages, iris has been also used as medicine and in cosmetics. The Romans, Egyptians, and Moors all grew it for its medicinal value and used it to treat such varied ailments as ague, epilepsy, chill and fever, headaches, loose teeth, and the bite of an adder. The iris root was so esteemed for its medicinal properties that the plant was grown in herb gardens throughout the Middle Ages. The roots, mixed with honey or wine, were supposed to be good for colds and coughs and torments of the belly. It was also considered good for the bite of a venomous beast and for sunburn. The juice of the fresh roots of this Iris, bruised with wine, has been employed as a strong purge of great efficiency in dropsy, old physic writers stating that if the dropsy can be cured by the hand of man, this root will effect it. The juice is also sometimes used as a cosmetic and for the removal of freckles from the skin. Not everyone could successfully harvest the iris root, however; Pliny suggested that only those in a state of chastity could gather the roots.In Germany, the iris was suspended in a barrel of beer to keep it from getting stale.The French used it to enhance the bouquet of wines.
In Russia, iris root was used to flavour a soft drink made from honey and ginger. The ancient Greeks used iris in the manufacturing of perfume. It was used as a fixative because it strengthened other odours. In Elizabethan England, The roots of Irises, known as Orris root (Rhizoma iridis) were put into the laundry to sweetly scent the clothes and they are often used in perfumery for their violet-like scent. Today the single greatest use of iris (other than for its beauty in the garden) is in the manufacturing of cosmetics. In Mexico, I. florentina is grown extensively for this purpose and many tons of the root are shipped to France annually. Many species if iris produce a wonderful dye. Blossoms of the yellow flag iris (I. pseudacorus) make a good yellow dye, and the roots of this species make a good brown and black dye. The petals of purple iris, mixed with alum, make a beautiful blue-violet dye. To obtain the most potent colour for dyes, the flowers should be gathered during a dry spell. As a result of a wonderful legal loophole, irises can occasionally be found growing on roofs in Japan. This dates back to a time in Japan when the people were not allowed to grow any flower in their gardens that was not approved by the emperor. Irises were not on the approval list, so instead of growing them in their gardens, Japanese gardeners grew them on the roofs. Iris is not only religions and heraldic symbols, Iris flowers inspired many artists: Albrecht Dürer, Sandro Botticelli, Conrad Kiesel, Roy de Maistre.
The iris echoed in the work of Shakespeare, In Henry VI Part 2, the allusion to Iris is as both messenger and as a bringer of bad tidings. When Queen Margaret takes leave of Suffolk she says:
“To France, sweet Suffolk: let me hear from thee;
For wheresoe’er thou art in this world’s globe,
I’ll have an Iris that shall find thee out.”
The one of the most famous irises are Irises painted by Van Gogh. Van Gogh painted a number of well-known images of irises, although this appears to have been for their pictorial beauty rather than for any symbolic association. I would like to ask you have you heard of Groot-Zundert, Holland? That’s the place where artist Vincent van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853. He had a brother with the same name Vincent had an older brother who died at birth. His name was also Vincent van Gogh and He was supposed to be a pastor. Van Gogh was supposed to assume his father’s role and become a pastor. I am thinking that the world has been robbed of his art if he had stuck with this career path.He was 27 years old when he painted his first piece. He was mostly self-taught and he started out by painting dark and sad depictions of peasants. On the 8 May 1889, he committed himself to the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Remy in France. During his stay, inspired by the nature surrounding, he painted some 130 paintings with the surrounding gardens and clinic becoming his main subjects for painting. Among these were the famous Irises. Like many artists of his time, Van Gogh was influenced by the Japanese works.The use of black contours in Irises is a typical element of Japanese woodblock prints. It helped to reinforce the expressive power of the painting. The technique of Japanese artist Hokusai was executed by Van Gogh with precision.The use of vibrant blue and violet bring the petals to life. This also created an illusion of movement and depth to the flowers. Van Gogh placed the irises unevenly on the page, making the flowers the focal point. The painting is also closely cropped to draw in the eye, while deep crimson soil shows the variety of colours he wanted to work with. These are all techniques taken from Hokusai. Van Gogh added to his work a batch of orange marigolds carefully in the background. The position of a single white iris begs many questions from the viewer that are still open to interpretation.Although painted during a time of suffering for Van Gogh, he was able to channel that energy into turning bright colours, deep contour and flat paint into works of art.Today these modest flowers on his canvas are on the list of the most expensive paintings ever sold, Van Gogh Irises painting was sold for 54 million dollars in 1987. I know we never should be asking about money but it is interesting to ask how Van Gogh may have felt about money and wealth at this moment in his life, never having gained financial success for his work. Van Gogh sold just one yes just one of his paintings during his lifetime and gained little of the critical acclaim his work now enjoys. He dreamed of creating an artist’s colony – a community of working artists – but despite several invitations to post-impressionist painters, he only ever played host to one. Instead, Van Gogh found himself living in a very different kind of community, amidst the mentally ill inhabitants of the asylum. Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890 and died in relative poverty, never enjoying the wealth and riches his paintings would later generate. Sad.Today many people are inspired by his Irises. I’m also inspired by Van Gogh Irises. I loving Vincent…..story depicted in oil painted animation. I’m inspired by his paintings melancholy as well as by his joy. I’m inspired by wealth history of the iris and their purple colour; now perhaps you are asking me why? I ask myself too! Here’s the answer: quite simply, because I ask myself when does spring come and… and ……… I am painting the answer.
Hush, Can you hear it?
The rustling in the grass,
Bringing you the welcome news
Winter’s day is past
Look to nature
Look for early spring signs’
Look for Irises