Hope Art Print - Discover the symbology behind the design

Back in February, with lockdown 3.0 in full swing, the depths of winter got to me. I knew I need to look forward, look towards the happier vaccinated times that were so nearly within our grasp yet seemed so far away.

I love a good challenge and I had always wondered if I could create a digital version of a Dutch Master painting, using only my photoshop wizardry and my own photography skills.  Would my skills be up to the task?  I knew it would be a gargantuan task which is why I had never attempted it before.   But what better a time than when you are locked away incapable of leaving your house?  It turned out to be a perfect way to spend 130 dark winter hours.   

As I was researching, I stumbled upon the Victorian notion of Floriography, or The Language Of Flowers.  Victorians, not known for their effusive or emotional nature, delighted expressing feelings that could not be spoken by hiding secret messages within floral arrangements.  A combination of specific flowers in carefully chosen colours could be given to express undying love, regret, sorrow or even indifference. 

And like that, the Old Masters series was born!  A set of prints that bring the beauty of the Dutch master flower painters into the digital age, bursting with hidden meanings and symbology to inspire and refresh. 

The first creation from this series is called HOPE, aptly named for the time when she was created. Though we mainly know many of these flowers through their western meanings (lets be honest - its usually royalty or success in some form) I found it fascinating to dive into symbols from other cultures, countries and times.  

So scroll down to find out what Irises meant to the ancient romans or how Kabuki theatre is linked with wisteria! 


Peace & Tranquility 

Tulips originally come from the Tian Shan mountains, or Mountains of Heaven, in Central Asia and were first cultivated in Constantinople from as early as 1055. Highly prized by the Syrian nobles in the middles ages, it is said that Sultan Selim brought 300 000 bulbs from Crimea for his sprawling gardens in Istanbul.

Blue tulips do not exist, except for in our own imaginations.  Despite the wild range of tulip varieties, no magical botanist has yet been able to create a pure blue tulip.  Thus, a blue tulip is a fantasy flower which, thanks to its colour, symbolises peace.

LEILA VIBERT STOKES Blue tulip flower symbolism
LEILA VIBERT STOKES Blue iris flower symbolism

Blue Iris


Irises are said to get their name from the Ancient Greek goddess of the rainbow as they exist in such a dizzying array of colours. 

In ancient greek mythology, Iris was a messenger for Zeus and Hera, the link between Mount Olympus and Earth.  Travelling along the arc of the rainbow, she would carry messages between the gods and humanity, and accompanied female souls on their journey to the heavens. 

To this day, Greeks plant irises on women’s graves to guide them through the afterlife. 


Calathea Leaves

New Beginnings 

The house plant "du jour”, these tropical delights are also known as prayer plants as their striking purple and green leaves open and close with the rhythm of the sun, giving them a completely different look from morning to evening. 

The turn of phrase “to turn over a new leaf” gave the Calathea its modern association with new beginnings and they are often given as housewarming gifts.



Long life and Endurance

A favourite flower from ancient Chinese and Japanese times, it only arrived on Europe’s shores in the mid 1800s.  Originally called “Zhi Ten” or “Blue Vine”, it can live for up to 100 years.

The 1820 Kabuki Theatre drama “Fuji Musume”, or “The Wisteria Lady”, tells the story of a painting of a young woman waiting patiently under a wisteria tree.  One day, the woman fell in love with a young man and stepped out of the painting to join him. Her love was woefully unreciprocated and she returns to her painting, juxtaposing the wisteria’s long life a with the painted lady’s endurance in the face of heartache.



In the western world, the dove and olive branch have long been symbols of peace, thanks to the story of Noah's Ark from the Old Testament. When the flood waters receded, Noah sent out a dove which returned with an olive branch, to show that the Biblical flood was over and that life had returned to Earth.

Yet these two symbols have been linked to peace way before early Christianity.  In ancient Japan, a dove carrying a sword symbolised the end of a war. The Olive tree is known to take years to cultivate, so in Ancient Rome it was believed that anyone who planted olive groves must be expecting a long period of peace. 


Gratitude and Humility

These flowers have been linked to Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love. 

Venus, a vain goddess, had a magical mirror which showed nothing but beauty to anyone who gazed into it. One day, after leaving it in the forest, it was found by a young shepherd boy who instantly fell in love with his own reflection upon gazing into it. 

Distraught, Venus called upon Cupid to head into the forest to retrieve her beloved mirror.  Despite imploring, the shepherd boy refused to return the mirror to Cupid, so he shot one of his arrows into the boy's hand.

The mirror hit the ground and shattered into a hundred fragments, and where each fragment fell blue campanulas started to grow.


Positivity and Rebirth

If you think of the plumeria, or frangipani flower, tropical Hawaiian shores and joyful flower garlands most likely come to mind.  Yet this flower so often linked to the island nation is not even native to its shores, introduced there in the mid 1800s by a German Botanist. 

Hawaiians use the Plumeria during celebrations, associating it with positivity and new beginnings.  

They can even symbolise a woman's marital status when worn in the hair!




One of the most striking flowers there is, the Bird of Paradise (or Crane Flower as it is known in its native South Africa) owes its name to its incredible petals that resemble the wings of a bird in flight. 

Given this close resemblance, the bird of paradise flower is often used to symbolise freedom, especially the freedom to travel and spread your wings, like a bird flying away to warmer climes in the winter. 


And you can now wake up inspired every morning, full of hope and joy, looking at this beautiful fine art print.  Just click on the image below to bring her home!


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