The Pineapple King

In every era, there is an item or product that becomes a symbol of wealth or status. In the modern world this might be sports cars, expensive jewellery or the latest tech,  but in the 17th century and well into the late 18th, it was pineapple mania that had the aristocracy fighting each other to show off the exotic fruit at any opportunity. Pineapple prices went through the roof, so much so that they were often rented out for dinner parties, rather than purchased outright.

This social phenomenon explains the picture below, dating from around 1677, entitled “King Charles II being presented with a pineapple by the Royal Gardener, John Rose, in the formal gardens of an estate”.

Pineapple

Attributed to an artist of the British/English School, the symbolism is clear, with the gardener offering the coveted and valuable fruit to the monarch, although in close-up, Rose looks rather weary and pained. Perhaps he’s worn himself out trying to grow the foreign fruit in the unhelpful British climate?

The location is unclear. A label on the reverse claims it is “Dawney Court”, which, allowing for spelling, has been suggested as either Dorney Court in Windsor, or Dorney House in Surrey. Sir Oliver Millar, the art historian, believed the latter more likely, as there had been pine-pits constructed there. The label also gives the artist as one “Danckers”, but nothing more is known about him.

The two dogs,  although not rendered in great detail, are quite charming, and the artist, whoever he was, has captured Charles’s likeness well. It is Rose’s expression that grabs my attention the most, however. The more I look at it, the more I wonder if it’s actually his knees making him so uncomfortable before his king? With his right leg angled behind him, the pineapple in one hand, and his hat in the other, he may have quite a job standing up!

You can zoom in for a closer look at  www.Christies.com.

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