No shrinking violet


A charming yet diminutive flower, the violet has stood for a whole array of meanings, many to do with color, many to do with its gentle size and appearance. Beginning with Christianity, the title Viola Odorata means Our Lady of Modesty, and so this flower is often associated with Mary's humble nature and devotion. 
Below: from Patrick and Ondine Mestdagh, from a rare and interesting group of 50 watercolors of plants and herbs, French or Belgian, circa 1900

In ancient Rome, violets were common funeral flowers that represent remembrance. To this day, violets and purples are considered colors of mourning in many cultures. During the middle ages, monks called violets an Herb of the Trinity because they have three primary colors. They also named the flower heart's ease as it was used to treat heart disorders.
Below: from Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry, an enchanting array of iridescent pink, lavender and green shimmers from the five petals of this exceptionally lovely pansy flower, centered with a sparkling European-cut diamond. Masterfully crafted, circa 1900-1915 by Crane and Theurer of Newark, NJ.

Violets were incredibly popular in Victorian times. They were eaten, candied, in cakes and pastries, and they were at the heart of the cut flower boom: violet-sellers would stand on street corners, selling nosegays and bunches which women pinned to their dresses and men tucked in their hat brims or wore on their lapels. And Victorian women – who were big on that so-feminine hobby of flower-pressing – pressed violets into scrapbooks, picked on leisurely country walks through woods where violets 
Below, from Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry
Left - An early Victorian memorial pin, an extraordinary keepsake from the sentimental 19th century. Preserved under glass is a lovely flower in full blossom, lovingly crafted from human hair and painted over shimmering mother of pearl. 
Right - An enchanting Art Nouveau pansy pin featuring shimmering Plique-a-Jour (translucent) enamel petals which effectively emulates the look of frosted crystal. Emeralds and a .55 carat European-cut diamond beams from the center of the this fabulous bejeweled flower, finely crafted in platinum over gold, circa 1900.

Today's renewed interest in organic farm-to-table resources and foraging has put wild violets in the spotlight again: they are rich in vitamins A and C and can be added to salads to add color and an unexpected sweet flavor. Bon appétit!
Below: Image via Girl in an Apron