Let It Bee: A Buzzing Renaissance
by Sebastiano Bazzichetto
VENEZIA – For centuries people have been attracted to the fascinating kingdom of Nature. Even more so, to the micro-realm of little creatures scurrying on the grass, flying in the air, mystical eight-eyed beings, winged ethereal resemblances of glass-made objects, or noble, rhino-like beetles. Throughout the millennia, for various reasons, philosophers, writers and artists have drawn inspiration from this extravagant miniaturized reign. In ancient times, Egyptians worshipped the bees that were believed to grow from the tears of the Sun God Ra, and precious-stone beetles were considered mighty amulets against the evil.
Aesop’s renowned fable recounts the unhappy events of an ant and a cicada, the former representing the hardworking chap, the latter symbolizing the superficial lazybones, destined to starvation and eventually death once the winter comes. In Greek mythology, the beautiful and gifted woman Arachne was transformed into a spider for having challenged the wise, but fiery-tempered Athena.
Art Nouveau artists found in the elegant lines of dragonflies and butterflies the inspirational source to design doorways, glass windows, lamp shades, brass bed frames, earrings and necklaces and much more. Dalí and many other surrealists populated their paintings with troops of bugs, ants and flies. Even Kafka, giving up the bewitching, gracious instances of Ovid’s metamorphoses, made Gregor Samsa wake up to find himself transformed into a giant insect.
But a very peculiar fascination – one must admit – has been held by the aristocratic: the golden-fleeced colony of bees.
According to the myth, Plato, Pindar and Saint Ambrose’s cradles were visited by bees, that infused in them the seeds of eloquence, and thus, bees came to represent wisdom, poetry and intelligence. Virgil’s Georgics (IV, 149-227) found in the bees and their behaviour the model of a flawless society, where every member has its role and know its duty. Pliny the Elder believed that bees had been specifically created for the use of humans. And not only the bees and their colonies, one should recall – the promised land, flowing with milk and honey, cannot go unmentioned. From the banquets of Olympic divinities to the pages of the Bible, bees’ nectar has always been considered a most coveted libation. To the point that bees landed on Bernini’s canopy in St. Peter’s Basilica, epitomizing the mighty Barberini family, now boasting a Pope on the throne of the papacy.
In very recent times, bees have found an increasing popularity, and the renaissance of their golden fur and symmetrical appearance is undeniable. Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Stubbs and Wooton, Dior and the very Italian, Vibi’s slippers (from Venice) – just to name a few – have decided to turn bees into a hallmark that bedecks sweaters, shoes, hats, purses, rings and gloves. Simply put, whatever the reason may be for this buzzing renaissance, in the case of the fashion system, bees have grown in fame thanks to their golden, gilded look that not only decorates, but beautifies every-day garments, reminding us of the metaphorical existence these little beings lead in our imagination, and the allegorical meanings they bear for us.