Power fascinates human kind. Seduced by titles and ovations, we fell under its spell, willing to take the risk of losing oneself. Power clings on belief, sometime just self-confidence, many times the common faith of others - give people something to believe in and you'll have power, the most frequently used principle, as history shows. Power speaks through symbols. Wealth, beauty, strength, godly abilities are since always intrinsic desires of humanity, aspirations transformed into symbols. Through art these symbols became visible for the large audience. Innumerable art-works were ordered by the upper class exactly with this purpose, to underline and enhance social status: a crown, a golden carriage, a castle like Schoenbrunn or Versailles, allegoric representations of kings and queens playing with angels in heaven..."evidence" that power is real.
Although not as grand as a castle or mesmerising as a jewellery, the pineapple became a power symbol in the Old World around 17th century: desired by all for its perfume, sweetness and beauty, a rare and highly valued exotic fruit, accessible only to royalty. Its majestic display became soon a fashionable pattern used in architecture, sculpture and design. The pineapple is originally from Brazil. Its name in French and German "ananas" is derived from Guarani (a Brazilian tribe language) and means "perfumed". The English preferred to use the term "pineapple" for its striking resemblance with a pine cone. The fruit was tasted for the first time in the Old World by Emperor Charles V who found it displeasing: unfortunately the fruit was spoiled due to long voyages across Pacific Ocean. Since Columbus discovery of America, Europeans tried to grow the fruit on European shores with no success. Finally the hot-houses, invented in Holland at end of 17th century, were able to create the favourable climate conditions for growing exotic fruits including the pineapple.
Below, on the right side, a famous painting (dated 1675-1680) which portraits King Charles II receiving a pineapple from his gardener. Although it seems that there are no proofs confirming local crops of pineapples in 17th century's England, the painting is intended to stand as evidence of King's power.
If rare, luxurious or fashionable among European Houses, Vienna had it. And pineapples were top of the list for rare and exotic fruits. In his working papers*, the historian David Do Paco depicts 18th century's Vienna as a multicultural and diverse city with access to Western gourmet markets. like Italy or France and active trades with Ottoman Empire via Istanbul. His studies shed a light on a delightful correspondence (1779-1792) between Foreign-Affair Austrian minister at that time Philipp Cobenzl and the Austrian internuncio in Istanbul: Baron Peter Herbert von Rathkeal ( "internuncio", a Vatican diplomat with rank of minister). Below a short excerpt in French:
".....Mon Cher Comte....A l’entrée de l’hiver vous aurez des dattes, des figues, des raisins secs, surtout ceux de Smyrnes qui sont petits et sans pépins. Ces fruits secs ne me coûtent rien, ils me viennent par la contribution volontaire de mes consuls, de mes négociants et protégés. Je vous demande à mon tour à présent des ananas frais. J’en ai déjà commandé six par forme d’essai; mais il n’y avait pas de mal que j’en repasse une douzaine d’autres. Il faut mettre six grands et beaux ananas par caisse et les empaqueter avec de la sciure de bois. Il faut aussi les cueillir un peu avant la parfaite maturité, car ils acheveront de murir dans le transport. Vous ferez prendre des informations très exactes à ce sujet ; il m’importe beaucoup d’avoir mes ananas en bon état, pas tant par gourmandise, quoique je compte bien en manger, que pour en régaler le Grand Seigneur et le Vizir, qui désirent l’un et l’autre de manger de ce fruit, qu’ils ne connaissent que confit."
According to this letter, pineapples were seen as a delicacy, traded in this case with the purpose of maintaining political relations.
Drifting away from 18th century and coming back to the fruit name origins, as mentioned in the intro, the similar aesthetic features with pine cones led to the name of pineapple in the English language countries. Pine cones are ordinary elements of the flora for countries abundant in montane forests. Their ability to give life to majestic pine trees was always admired and considered as a powerful symbol in Central Europe. During the Habsburg's rule its meaning went further, the ordinary pine cone started to be represented as a pineapple, making the link between the Old and the New World, symbolising an Austrian Empire which grew beyond the borders of Old Europe. In essence, a reversed way of thinking: after all, a pineapple would not have been named pineapple if a pine cone would have not existed :) Make sense ? :)
Note: * "Viennese Delights: Remarks on the history of Food and Sociability in Eighteenth-Century Central Europe" (2014, European University Institute") - the Cobenzl Project