The Pomegranate possesses a leathery protective outer skin that belies the juicy seeds within. This ancient fruit thrives in an arid landscape (too wet and the shrub roots rot). Originating in Persia, propagation proved relatively easy and thus the fruit spread widely, assuming related yet different symbolic meaning as it travelled. Alongside other luxury items, a whole desiccated pomegranate was found in the tomb of a butler to the (female) Pharoah, Hatshepsut (1507-1458 BC). An ancient proverb: eat a pomegranate and visit a bath; your youth will haste back. The fruit was associated with both ambition and prosperity.
The pomegranate is central to several ancient Greek myths, including as the ‘fruit of death” springing from the blood of Adonis. Today it is a common housewarming gift in Greece, offering best wishes for abundance, good fortune and fertility.
I became aware of Punica Granatum through the study of 15th c. Italian art, much of which featured Mary and baby Jesus, with lots of symbols strewn about, including bursting pomegranates, a metaphor for Christ’s suffering and resurrection.
Some have suggested that the irresistible fruit of the Garden of Eden was not an apple, but medieval Latin’s Pomegranate: the Pomum (apple) Granatum (seeded).
The Old French name was Pomme Grenade, eventually shortened to just Grenade (and yes, the explosive device is named for the fruit).
Pomegranates are mentioned all over the Torah and were used liberally on coinage to represent the fertility of the Promised Land. The fruit possesses the original “design” for the Crown. My favorite therapist of all time, Gaby Rothman, spent young adulthood on a kibbutz in Israel and returned with a beautiful sterling silver pomegranate necklace. When she developed a brain tumor, I made this etching in her honor. In rendering the fruit this way, I subconsciously peeled open a skull. Gaby is fully recovered, in case you’re wondering!
Andrea Vesalio c. 1543