Madonna of the Peaches

August reflections, peaches in iconography, and peach-inspired art & treats from the farm…

Hi folks! I hope you’re enjoying your August so far & are finding ways to enjoy summertime magic. I love August, partly because it really feels like summer flavors have hit their stride this month, but also because I love Autumn so much…and when August rolls around, I feel like this beautiful transition starts to happen, one where little glimpses of Autumn begin to appear. The poplars are starting to shed a few leaves, the tall summer sunflowers are bending their heads… and even though I’m always excited for Fall, this transition in August reminds me to savor summer before it’s gone.

And that’s when the peach trees really shine.

Every year, I find these to be the most vibrantly beautiful, delicious, magical treats. Whether we’re eating them straight off the tree, canning them, or making them into pies or other treats, they’re a favorite of ours.

In the Church, August is devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and it also celebrates the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th – a harvest feast of “first fruits” when, traditionally, fruits & herbs would be blessed. In looking through historical Marian paintings & iconography, I was delighted to see peaches appearing every so often – usually in paintings of Mary & the infant Christ.

Madonna of the Peach, attributed to St. Catherine of Bologna (1413 – 1463), Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As it turns out, peaches were sometimes used in place of apples in the symbolic narratives woven throughout these paintings. Symbolism is such a dynamic way of communicating ideas, and the apple is a perfect example – its meaning shifted depending on the context of who was holding it in the artwork. When held by Adam, for instance, it symbolized sin (the apple’s association with sin is probably owed to the fact that its Latin name, “malus,” is identical to the Latin term for “evil”). When held by Mary or Jesus, though, the apple’s symbolic meaning morphed, and it came to represent the fruit of salvation. Though apples are commonly used for this symbolism, peaches occassionally take their place in historic artwork.

With a Marian feast of first fruits on the horizon, and with the peaches being plentiful here now, it’s been a lovely opportunity to paint with these reflections in mind, and to whip up some delicious treats as well.

For my own take on the Madonna of the Peaches, I felt like a doe & fawn were most fitting. My reference pictures were some photos I’d taken of a resting doe – I love getting to feature the beautiful critters I photograph in paintings! Though I used watercolors to paint this picture, I accented it with iridescent gold gouache for their halos. When the light on the painting shifts, the halos glimmer. I hope you enjoy this sweet, peachy pair!

For a peach treat to accompany them, I made a batch of peach simple syrup. Homemade peach soda, my friends, is like drinking August from a glass. It’s bright & fresh, sweet enough without being too sweet, and just perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day.

PEACH SODA

3 medium peaches, pitted, & sliced into chunks
1 cup sugar
1 cup water


Add the sugar and water to a suacepan and boil until the sugar is dissolved. Then, turn the heat down and add the peaches. Cook until the peaches are all soft & falling apart, then let cool to room temperature.

Mash the peaches in the syrup mixture, and then put the mixture in batches into a strainer. Gently press the mixture to get all the liquid strained out into a jar. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Fill a 12 oz. glass halfway with ice. Add 1/4 cup of peach syrup and top with cold seltzer. Add a vanilla sidecar, and you’ve got a delicious peaches & (ice) cream treat for a summer day!

Since I’ve made a few other stone-fruit simple syrups lately, I decided to make a “Summertime Soda Flight,” and it’s just as tasty as it is beautiful!

Left to right: apricot soda, plum soda, & peach soda

And here’s a glimpse of my makeshift home soda fountain. Some grown-ups have coffee or tea bars – I just stick with homemade soda. 😉

Thanks so much for joining me for this peachy journey. I hope you’re doing well and finding ways to stay cool this August! Do you have any plans for this last leg of summer?

Best wishes,
Kristin

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