Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Calla Lily

click photo to enlarge
The Calla Lily, also known as the Arum Lily, is not a true lily. It belongs to the family Araceae rather than Liliaceae, and to the genus Zantedeschia. Consequently its Latin name is Zantedeschia aethiopica. Like all the flowers of this genus it originates from Africa, and in the case of Calla Lily, from areas of marsh and wetland.

It is popular among flower arrangers because of its large, funnel-like, white bloom that has a prominent yellow spadix. Those who arrange flowers in churches are particularly drawn to the Calla Lily for two reasons. Firstly, it makes a fine show in the dark surroundings of a large building where smaller, darker coloured flowers are often overwhelmed. And secondly, the lily has symbolic connotations for the Christian religion (even a flower that is a lily in name only).The paintings of the Italian Renaissance frequently show figures holding lilies of one kind or another. In this example by Raffaellino del Garbo (c.1466-1524)  Mary is holding a true lily as a symbol of her purity. The renowned Mexican painter, Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was fascinated by the Calla Lily judging by the number of his paintings that feature the flower. Probably the best known is "The Flower Vendor", but further examples abound  - see here, here, and here.

Photographs of the Calla Lily usually emphasise its flawless, creamy white and gentle shading. However, in the relative darkness of a medieval church, shadows are often deeper and tinted light finds its way on to everything. Consequently my image is far from flawless, and the curved funnel has a more sombre, even slightly sinister feel.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On