What Do Cherries Mean in Literature and Art?

Probably the first things that come to mind when you think about cherry are their vivid splash of colour, their sweet, opulent flavour, and how frequently they appear in dessert recipes. But cherry have long been significant figures in literature and art, particularly in terms of symbolism.

Of course, the symbolism of cherries differs based on the work in which they occur. The time period in which the piece was created is mostly to blame for the variation. Are you curious about the significance of cherries? The symbolism of cherries in literature and art is explored below.

An Overview of Cherries

The lush land between the Caspian and Black Seas in Asia is where the sweet cherry that we know and love today first appeared. The history of plants by Greek philosopher

Theophrastus, who lived from 371 to 287 BCE, has the oldest recorded mention of cherries. Although it’s still unclear how cherries travelled from Asia Minor to Europe, it’s generally accepted that birds carried them there.

Cherries were eventually transported to America by sea in the 1600s by early colonists. Since then, cherry have gained popularity around the globe, being loved and accepted by all kinds of people, including Chinese nobles, working-class immigrants, and both amateur and professional chefs.

Cherries have symbolic meaning.

Have you ever thought about what cherries represent? If so, you might be shocked to learn that the answer depends heavily on the historical period you’re looking at. For instance, cherries were given a sacred importance in mediaeval art and literature.

The pregnant Virgin Mary and Joseph visit Bethlehem for the census in “The Cherry-Tree Carol,” a Christmas carol that dates back to the fifteenth century. They pause for a break in a cherry orchard along the road, and Mary requests that Joseph pick cherries for her so she can eat them and feed the unborn child.

Joseph informs her sarcastically that the child’s father should choose the cherries, not him. Jesus, who is still developing inside Mary, commands the cherry tree to lower one of its branches so that Mary may pluck cherries from it. In fact, when the branch drops, Joseph regrets his enraged comments.

Another example of cherries being a religious sign is seen in Wakefield Master’s The Shepherd’s Play from the fifteenth century. Because it’s all they can afford, the poor shepherds who visit Mary and the Christ Child in the stable deliver meagre gifts.

A basket of cherries is presented to Mary and Jesus by the first shepherd. In this sense, the cherry serves as a modest yet suitable replacement for riches.

Additionally, the poor knight in Sir Cleges, a mediaeval chivalric romance, prays under a tree for fortune for himself and his family. The cherry tree is miraculously covered in cherries when he looks up. This augurs well for the future. He brings the cherries to the king with his son, who in return for this amazing gift bestows upon them money and means.

Cherry meaning evolved over time to become more secular and connected to sex. The erotic was perceived by writers as being like cherries: ripe, full, and ready to burst, especially when it came to virginity and the male anatomy.

As an illustration, Thisbe declares in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones.” Some academics think that this sentence’s “stones” are actually testicles.

English lyric writers Josuah Sylvester and Robert Herrick link cherries to nipples and breasts in the seventeenth century. English poet Charles Cotton compares a woman’s pubic hair to black cherries at this time period, and writer John Garfield describes sex as “playing at the Bobb-Cherry.” The tip of a man’s appendage is compared as a cherry by French authors Michel Millot and Jean L’Ange in their sexual novel The School of Venus (1655).

The sensual symbolism of cherries become increasingly overt as time went on. The cherry was originally used as a symbol for the hymen in contemporary times in 1889, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Virgins “dropping” their hymen, sometimes known as their “cherry,” first appeared in common use in the early 20th century, according to lexicographer Jonathon Green.

The novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, the novel Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson, and songs like “Cherry Pie” by Warrant, “Cherry Red” by ZZ Top, “Cherry Cherry” by Neil Diamond, “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways, and “Blow” by Beyoncé are examples of contemporary works that incorporate cherry symbolism.

Cherry Spiritual Meaning

Christian scriptures frequently emphasise the miraculous and the divine as the spiritual meaning of cherries. Fruit frequently develops or appears in improbable situations as proof of the wondrousness and majesty of God. The spiritual meaning of this is that all is possible with God, as seen by a cherry tree bending to let its fruit be gathered.

In addition, cherries are linked in Japanese culture to the ideas of life, death, and rebirth. When given as a gift, this gives them a unique meaning. To show their appreciation for the Kamikaze pilots’ World War II actions, the Japanese gave them cherry blossoms. As a sign of goodwill and togetherness, Japan has also recognised its connection with the United States by gifting cherry trees.

Artistic Cherry Symbolism

In paintings and embroidery, among other visual arts, cherries are frequently depicted. They frequently stand for fortune, heavenly riches, and the fruit of paradise. They serve as the entire painting’s main point in some works of art.

Others have them subtly dangling from a subject’s hand or, like in a well-known portrait of Elizabeth I, from the ears.

The Cherry Gatherers by François Boucher, Girl Under the Cherry Blossoms by Émile Vernon, Madonna with Cherries by Tiziano Vecelli, Cherries by Virginia Granberry, and The Boy with Cherries by Edouard Manet are just a few notable paintings that include cherries in varied degrees.

In literature and art, cherries can symbolise anything from the lofty and sublime to the sexy and pious. You must consider the context of the work in which it was utilised and the time period in which it was made to fully comprehend what cherries stand for. However, it is obvious that cherries are ripe with significance regardless of the setting.


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