Monday, April 23, 2012

Lilies, symbolism and eyeliner

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph of a display of well-illuminated lilies was taken in a church. I often see this particular flower, usually a white variety, in or near the chancel. In fact, there is a long history associating the lily with the Virgin Mary to the point where the name "Madonna Lily" has become widespread. Renaissance paintings often depict Christ's mother holding the white flower as a sign of her purity. In the Old Testament's Song of Solomon the lily is seen as symbolic of beauty: "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens". All these ideas remain current today notwithstanding the fact that sometimes, possibly due to the Victorians, the lily can be associated with death!

The fleur-de-lys (literal French for "lily flower") has long been associated with the French royal family and is commonly found in heraldry. There is a suggestion that the three prominent petals of the total of six, like the lily (Lilium) proper above, symbolise the Trinity. However, it is also thought that the fleur-de-lys derives from the iris (Iris pseudacorus) with which it has a stronger resemblance. Theory has it that short-hand usage combined with this flower's waterside habitat resulted in it being called the "lily flower" where it should have been "flower of the river of lilies" (presumably water lilies). Make of that what you will!

If you want to photograph these showy flowers you are still more likely to find them in a church than elsewhere. When I stopped to snap this group by an ancient stone font I was taken by the fact that the large, white petals were edged with a thin, dark line; something I hadn't seen before. A quick internet search uncovered the fact that they are a variety known as Lily L.A. "Eyeliner", taking their name from the eye make-up that some women favour.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/40
ISO: 640
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On