Calla Lily Meanings, History and Uses
Calla Lily Flower Meaning
The symbolic meaning associated with the calla lily is magnificent beauty. Calla lilies are native to southern Africa. On the African island Madagascar, the calla lily thrives due to the steady temperatures and moderate seasons. Calla lilies will bloom all year around as long as they have a sufficient supply of water, energy and nutrition.
The calla lily was by the Romans in association with the winter solstice. The lilies were forced to bloom indoors during the darkest time of year to celebrate the preservation of the light and bringing the light indoors. Calla lilies were often associated with funerals, only later to become a popular wedding flower.
The lily was a sacred flower to the Minoans and also prized among the ancient Jews. In Christian iconography, the flower came to represent purity and chastity. In contrast with this, the flower's large spadix, a phallic flower stalk containing many male (pistillate) and female flowers, was symbolic of lust and sexuality among the Romans. As mentioned above, calla lilies have been viewed as a symbol of death and associated with funerals. In this capacity, they have been placed on the graves of youth who have suffered untimely deaths.
The Modern Discovery of Calla Lilies
The calla lily is not actually a lily, but a separate genus. The calla lily was first catalogued in modern times, probably in the mid 1700s, and misnamed by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus. Later the German botanist Karl Koch found the error and establish a new genus, zantedeschia, for the calla lily and related flowers. However, the original common name of "calla lily" has continued to be used. The calla lily is a flowering genus of twenty-eight species growing mostly in marshy areas. The calla lily grows continuously in water and can survive mild frost. Calla lilies make hardy cut plants and can survive for quite a while in vases. A single calla lily in a tall vase in a classic statement of elegance and beauty.
Calla Lilies in the History of Art
Georgia O'Keeffe successfully brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted to have the viewer really look at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Her sensual flowers redefined the flower as a pure, almost geometric form.
Georgia O'Keeffe's "Calla Lilies with Red Anemone" (1928) recently was sold for $6.2 million at a Christie's auction in New York. The calla lily is also visible in many of Diego Rivera's works of art.
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