L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Narcissus is more than a flower

We've had a few sunny and warm days here in Portland; the rain and cold will soon return, but it's been lovely. It's also been lovely, of late, to see what our new/old yard has in store, what the Spring will be presenting us with. (I've always heard that when you've come into possession of a old yard you need to spend the first year doing little and waiting to see what comes popping out of the ground; I'm sure I won't have that much patience.) At this point there really isn't even the shadow of what one could call a garden - the whole place has been horribly neglected, for years by the look of it - and back and front and side yards are all a dreary, flat nothing. But Nature is remarkably persistent, and besides the crocus - not at all my favorite - all sorts of other things are presently peeping out. There are quite obvious signs of tulips and the fragile beginnings of what I really hope are peonies - which are among my favorites. The most prevalent of the new re-arrivals are unmistakably daffodils and/or narcissus (I can't yet tell which)... which leads us - with the most tenuous thematic connection - to this post. To mark the beginnings of Spring, here are a just few examples inspired by that most fertile mythological ground for painters, the sad and instructive story of Narcissus. So, with your indulgence, I offer you a small, scantily-clad bouquet of narcissi!

Echo and Narcissus, by John William Waterhouse, 1903.
Narcissus Gazing at His Reflection, by Dirck van Baburen, circa 1621-22.
Narcissus, by Gyula Benczúr, 1881.
Narcissus, by Joseph Denis Odevaere, circa 1820.
The Death of Narcissus, by François-Xavier Fabre, 1814.
Narcissus, by Franciscus de Neve (II), after circa 1650.
Narcissus, by Franc Kavčič (known, variously, as Franz Caucig, Franco Caucig, Francesco Caucig, or Frančišek Caucig), before 1810.
Narcissus, by Caravaggio, circa 1597-99.


  1. The Caravaggio and the Franciscus de Neve are sublime. The others are great eye candy - such a wonderful subject and character. I would love a waterway like the one in Waterhouse's piece to run through my grounds. Wonderful post!

  2. Odevaere wins the prize for most distracting modesty leaf!

  3. All those Narcissus and nary a flower. Daffs, jonquils and Natcissi are more or less the same plants under different names unless you're a botanist.

  4. Aime Bonpland was, for many years at the service of The Empress Josephine. Not only a physician, he was also a world class botanist and in charge of Josephine's vast gardens and greenhouses at her Chateau de Malmaison.

    Bonpland also helped the great watercolorist, Pierre Joseph Redoute to catalogue the names and characteristics of all the plants and flowers the artist painted at Malmaison.
    According to them, Narcissus and Daffodils are in the same category......

    I loved the story of your new/old garden, Stephen! Such elegant begginings with those beautiful lilaceas!
    I wish you and Madame Gigi all the happiness possible in this life.

    1. How very kind you are, Maria! And, yes, I know they're really pretty much the same flower, though I was hoping they would reveal themselves to be some sort of predominantly white narcissus. But they all seem to be all-yellow daffodils. And the hoped for peonies are the beginnings of bleeding-heart, color to be seen. : )