02 Dec Honey in Art
Honey has always been important to the human race. Even the Ancient Egyptians used honey on their skin for treating wounds, burns and cuts. Around the world, bees and honey are celebrated, and this miracle of nature is also a source of inspiration within the artwork. Here, we consider some of the most beautiful works of art and more modern reflections on the brilliance of bees, beekeepers and honey.
The Beekeepers and the Birdnester
This iconic piece of art dates back to circa 1568, painted by Pieter Brugel the Elder in Indian ink. Three figures in beekeeping outfits are seen collecting honey from beehives beneath a tree. At this time, honey was of great importance within the diet, as cane sugar could not easily be refined. Honey was therefore one of the only sweeteners available for cooking. The artist painted a number of works featuring bees or beehives, symbolising the importance of honey and bees during the sixteenth century.
Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey
Lucas Cranach, the Elder’s oil painting was completed in 1530. It tells the story of Cupid stealing honey from the bees. Cupid then complains to his mother that the bees have stung him, and is surprised by how painful a bee sting feels. Venus is said to have compared this pain to the pain Cupid inflicts on lovers with his arrows, as the joy of love can soon turn to heartbreak. There is perhaps a link to be made between harvesting delicious honey from bees, and the risk of being stung.
Released in 2019, this documentary follows Hatidze, a woman in her 50s, in a deserted village in Macedonia. When a new family arrives next door, they are warned to only take half of the honey, leaving the rest for the bees. When this advice is ignored, Honeyland becomes a stark warning of the cost of the environmental destruction that humans are capable of. There is a strong message about our need to save the bees within this documentary.
The Pollinators focuses on the lucrative US industry of almonds, worth a staggering $11bn. The USA supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, and so making sure there are enough bees to pollinate the almond trees each spring is of utmost importance. The documentary follows as 1.8 million hives of honeybees are drafted into California. The threat to the bees is enormous, and The Pollinators shows just how difficult it could be for us to produce enough food if bees were to become extinct.
The Secret Life of Bees
Based on the bestselling novel by Sue Monk Kidd, this musical sees the main character learning to become a beekeeper whilst trying to understand her past. With a backdrop of racial tension and ingrained racism, it follows a young girl trying to find herself, whilst discovering the importance of beekeeping.
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