Madonna of the Peaches

James the Great (son of Zebedee & brother of the Apostle John) was one of the Twelve Apostles. James & John were the first disciples to follow Jesus, and they were also present at the Transfiguration.

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

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 and the Queenship of Mary on August 22nd – harvest feasts of “first fruits” when, traditionally, fruits & herbs would be blessed.

The Marian month of August is also the time of year when peaches are plentiful. This stone fruit appears occasionally in iconography, usually being featured in paintings of Mary & the infant Christ.

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 sometimes take their place in historic artwork.



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References cited:

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. Oxford Companion to the Year. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Wikimedia: Art work by St. Catherine of Bologna (Maria und das Jesuskind mit Frucht).

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