Spring Narcissus

Spring brings the joys of symbolic rebirths; and not a moment too soon for 2021.  

Daffodils seemingly by magic materialized yesterday in my back yard and that moment triggered my return to our Childe Hassam, The Table Garden from 1910.  

FREDERICK CHILDE HASSAM, Dorchester, Massachusetts (1859-1935), The Table Garden, 1910, Oil on canvas, Gift of John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell, 1973.1.22 

Boston native Hassam established himself as one of America’s foremost painters of Impressionism.  A favorite subject of the painter was urban interior scenes composed of women and flowers.  Our painting’s title, The Table Garden, perhaps emphasizes the main subject, while the painting itself compares paperwhite bulbs with the blue and white flower design of the kimono. 

The Table Garden features the paperwhite narcissus— a flower of worldwide admiration.  

OrigInally from the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula, and Western Africa, the narcissus, or daffodil, thrived wherever it has been transplanted.  The ancient Greek myth of Narcissus has greatly influenced our perception of daffodils reflecting along riverbanks.  In Britain, wild daffodils are called Lent Lillies and flourish from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  Daffodils stand as the national flower of Wales.  Chinese folklore regards the narcissus as good luck in the home.   

The cultural scope of the narcissus may be suggested by the next three paintings as all have the narcissus flower depicted.  

In early 2019, the Pompeii Archaeological Park reported the latest recovery of a fresco depicting Narcissus.  The Roman culture of Pompeii dates from the first century.  Mt. Vesuvius preserved Pompeii and Herculaneum in the year 79.  

John William Waterhouse, Echo & Narcissus, 1903, oil, 43x74in, courtesy of Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 

Salvador Dalí 1904–1989, Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937, Oil paint on canvas, 510 x 780 mm, Purchased from the Edward James Foundation (Grant-in-Aid) 1979, T02343, courtesy of the Tate Modern, London 

As one of the first flowers to appear in the spring, the narcissus roundly trumpets the world that a fresh new season has begun.