Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sweet Calabash (Passiflora maliformis)

Passiflora maliformis -- Sweet Calabash, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
 I really don't know why I am so attracted to Passion Flowers since they are almost borderline grotesque.  I imagine that it is partly because they are so extremely colourful, but I think that it is also partly because the "flowers" are so completely ridiculous -- almost as though God threw a bunch of colours, designs and patterns up in the air and just let everything stay the way it fell.

Another factor might be that they are almost impossible for me to draw on the computer.  There are just too many patterns -- the kinds of patterns that require the artist to do something like the "spatter painting" that we used to do in elementary school art classes.  Since I can't create the many complex designs involved, I have to find some other way to give an impression of design and pattern which often leads to the discovery of new artistic techniques on the computer.  Anyway, enough rambling, let me tell you a bit about "Sweet Calabash".

Passiflora maliformis (family, Passifloraceae) or Sweet Calabash is cultivated for its beautiful fragrant flowers and delicious fruit. The name maliformis name means “apple-shaped” referring to the fruit.

This species is native and common in the wild in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Barbados and Trinidad; also Venezuela, Colombia and northern Ecuador. It is cultivated in Jamaica, Brazil and Ecuador for its fruits.

The fruits ripen from September to December, are light-yellow with a very hard shell, difficult to open but the seedy pulp is much enjoyed. Yellow-orange pulp is aromatically scented and flavoured. In Jamaica, it is scooped from the shell and served with wine and sugar. The strained juice is excellent for making cold drinks. Snuff boxes have been made of the shell of the hard type. This species is noted for its resistance to pests and diseases that affect its relatives.

All in all, a fascinating plant.  Be advised, there are still a number of other Passion Flowers I haven't tried drawing yet, so...

Recently I came across some photographs taken of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin in Beuron Germany. I want to show you examples of the particular type of art work was developed there and, as well, I want to tell you about the patron of the abbey, St. Martin. 

Beuron Archabbey (in German Erzabtei Beuron,
 otherwise Erzabtei St. Martin) is a major house of
the Benedictine Order located at Beuron in the
upper Danube valley in Baden-Württemberg
in Germany.
First let me tell you about their patron saint.  St. Martin was born in 316 of parents who worshipped the old Roman gods. However, as the story below indicates, by his teen years he was thinking of becoming a Christian, but remained undecided. He had become a catechumen (he was studying the faith in the local church) but by age 18 had not yet taken the final step of asking to be baptised. It was at this time when he had an experience which changed his life forever.

For those of you not familiar with St. Martin of Tours, let me quickly tell you the story about the event for which St. Martin has been most frequently portrayed artistically and for which he is best known.

As reported by his biographer, Sulpicius Severus, a contemporary of his, Martin was already a tribune at the time of this event. It happened when he was on garrison duty at Amiens. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young tribune Martin rode through the gates, probably dressed in the regalia of his unit -- gleaming, flexible armor, ridged helmet, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lambswool. As he approached the gates he saw a beggar, with clothes so ragged that he was practically naked. The beggar must have been shaking and blue from the cold but no one reached out to help him. Martin, overcome with compassion, took off his mantle. In one quick stroke he slashed the lovely mantle in two with his sword, handed half to the freezing man and wrapped the remainder on his own shoulders. Many in the crowd thought this was so ridiculous a sight that they laughed and jeered but some realized that they were seeing Christian goodness. That night Martin dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half mantle he had given the beggar. Jesus said to the angels and saints that surrounded him, "See! this is the mantle that Martin, yet a catechumen, gave me." When he woke, it was the "yet a catechumen" that spurred the 18-year-old Martin on and he went immediately to be baptized.

Here we see the beggar and St. Martin handing him half his cloak.
The Latin reads: "Saint Martin, pray for us"

A central dome, side chapel, with an icon of Our Lady and the Child
The Latin 'Mater Dei' reads: "Mother of God"  The art work
found in the monastery, known as the Beuronese School of Art,
saw the important role of geometry in proportions.  "Geometrical
proportions determine ideal forms, and the result is an innate harmony
comparable to the mathematical relationships in musical composition."

The saving act of our redemption appears to form the trunk
of a tree with the hart and the lambs feeding at the
edge of the stream.  It reminds me of the verse from Psalm 1:3
"They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield
their fruit in due season and their leaves do not wither." (side chapel aspe)

This icon, from the cloister, shows very clearly
not only the desire for geometrical perfection in the art
but also shows the strong influence of Egyptian art which
had a profound effect on those who founded the Beuronese School.
This icon is entitled 'Sedes sapietiae' or "Seat of Wisdom"
This link gives you a selection of Beuronese works if you are interested.

Suki and Sallie

 Well, the preceding section got me into rather an Egyptian mode so I decided to use this drawing of the Egyptian cat god.  I will not be showing this to Suki for fear that if she knew that at one time the Egyptians worshipped black cats, she would truly become impossible to live with!

Actually, she has been doing much better of late.  She seems to realize that I am not going to get up now in the middle of the night just because she is hungry.  I only get up now if there is something that I need to do and I feel awake enough to be safe.  Only occasionally do I get that rather scary feeling which lets me know that a fall could be imminent.  I try to stay alert for that feeling and if it comes, then I quickly get myself back to bed.

Each day that passes without my falling is just another day to be so very grateful. 

I don't know if I have mentioned it or not, but in not too many more months there will be a new baby in my family.  This baby has been long desired and we are all waiting joyfully for the great day to arrive.  I am working on a couple of special drawings -- one for the mother-to-be and one for the new baby.  And, should you feel so inclined, I would really appreciate prayers for the safe delivery of "Baby" (don't know if it is a boy or girl yet) and the continued good health of the mother-and-father-to-be.  This is their first child!  Thanks.

May St. Martin of Tours pray for us all and may the peace of God be with us today and always.

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