Georges de Feure - Le fruit défendu: péché as pêche
My reading in Ben Hale's novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, has turned my thoughts again toward forbidden fruit and its rare depiction as a peach, which Ben picks up on and works into his story. After reading John Milton's description of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in terms better fitting a peach than an apple, as pointed out to me by Robert Appelbaum (who has written on this topic), I wondered about the possibility of a pun in French on pêche (peach) and péché (sin). I haven't confirmed that such a pun has been explicitly made, not in so many (or so few?) words, but the painting above by the French Symboliste painter Georges de Feure (real name: Georges Joseph van Sluÿters, 1868-1943) looks like a visual pun on Eve's biting of a peach as the original sin. Here's what the catelogue notes at Sotheby's Auction says about this painting:
Among the rare works created by de Feure during his sojourns in Bruges, this work is one of the most unusual for its symbolism and modernism. In the foreground, partially obscured by a floral border, a nude woman, Eve-like, holds the gaze of the spectator and proffers a peach she has already bitten. This fruit and its rich juice evoke the biblical temptation in Paradise, and mankind's ensuing fall from grace.For its own source, Sotheby's cites Ian Millman work on George de Feure, Mâitre du Symbolisme et de l'Art Nouveau (Paris, 1992, p. 89, catalogued and discussed; p. 88, illustrated), which can be found among Google Books here (see Section 4 of the text) . As Sotheby notes, the illustration appears on page 88. Pages 89 and 90 are not shown in the preview, but page 92 (not 89!) is actually the page from which Sotheby gets its catalogue notes, having translated the French. The French original refers to the "pêche" (peach) and "Péché originel" (Original Sin), but does not explicitly note any pun.
In the background, in the town streets moves a procession of nude women, dancing, applauding and caressing each other. Some wear black stockings while others brandish smoking amphoras above their heads. In front of them, a group of civil and religious dignitaries wave flags and an incense burner. An old bearded man and two naked boys with linked arms form the vanguard of the extraordinary march.
In creating this provocative work, De Feure was possibly inspired by two historical events associated with Bruges: the procession of Saint-Sang that occurs on the day of the Ascension in commemoration of the relic brought back in 1149 from the Second Crusade by Thierry d'Alsace, Count of Flanders; and a group of Anabaptists brutally persecuted in the sixteenth century. The Anabaptists believed that at the apocalypse, God would baptise them in fire (represented by the smoking amphoras in the composition), and consumed by religious fervor, they ran naked through the city streets. Whatever the veracity of these potential sources, De Feure accentuates the sexual and sensual, using the duality of the concept of blood and the underlying theme of Original Sin and redemption. (Lot 41, George de Feure, Le fruit défendu, Sotheby's 19th Century European Paintings (L09663), November 24, 2009, pages 74-75)
Any knowledgeable individuals who might add to this query are welcome to post comments.