What’s the deal with so many pineapple motifs?
By Peter Woodland
Have you ever wondered why pineapple motifs are a recurring theme? I have.
It seems like pineapple motifs are everywhere. They’re on shirts, pineapple art, jewellery and ornaments to name just a few.
Pineapples are even featured in one of the mosaics adorning Kent Street at Maryborough, Queensland.
The blurb suggests the city’s municipal benefactor, George Ambrose White, who donated money for the construction of the Maryborough Town Hall in the early 1900s, made his money out of pineapples, amongst other things including gold.
The pineapple is a member of the Bromeliad family. It is native to South America, most likely from southern Brazil and Paraguay.
It was introduced to Europe in the 15th Century first by Christopher Columbus, who encountered it in Guadeloupe.
It had, by then, spread throughout South and Central America.
In Europe, the pineapple proved hard to cultivate and therein is the answer to why the pineapple remains an emblem, a motif of fashion and prestige.
It became rare and hard to procure and so became a symbol of wealth and power.
A pineapple could sell for as much as $8000 in today’s money.
Those able to acquire a pineapple would use it as a centrepiece for swank affairs. In fact, it was possible to rent pineapples for an event.
The rich and famous adorned their homes and other building with carved pineapples.
Christopher Wren chose gold pineapples to top both the North Towers of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Purportedly, it was Barbara Palmer, mistress of King Charles II, who first cultivated the tropical fruit in Europe in a ‘hothouse’ in the late 1600s.
Indeed, King Charles also had official portraits painted in which pineapples appear prominently.
In Queensland, pineapples are grown in the Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay, Yeppoon, Coastal North Queensland and the Atherton Tableland regions. In the 2012-13 season, the Australian pineapple processing sector produced 39,000 t of fruit for canning and juicing, which was worth $12.5 million.