A Study of a Pulasan (nephelium ramboutan-ake)
This painting depicts a branch with elongated, oval-shaped leaves that curl at the tips. The artist has illustrated a few broken leaves to the right of the composition. We can imagine that the painter may have been copying a still life of a Pulasan branch and it is captured here with new and old shoots, together with fruits in various stages of ripening. A shoot with yellow dried out flowers may also represent the fruit formation process, perhaps between a bud and a ripened fruit. On the bottom left hand side of the painting there are three large pulasan fruits which hang as though they are about to fall. They are a shade of burgundy with an orange tint and have small ‘spines’ which create a ‘hairy’ effect. The artist has painted a fruit cut in half, showing its fleshy, white interior and almond-shaped seeds at the bottom of the composition. This is a common feature of botanical paintings and drawings. The name of the plant is written below the branch. The pulasan can be found in north-east India, through Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia to Borneo and the Philippines. It differs from the rambutan in that the ‘spines’ of the fruits are not fully developed. The seeds can be roasted and used to make a drink. A painting by Chinese artists in the Raffles Collection, London, depicts the same species of fruit (Noltie, p. 122).
Literature: Noltie, H.J. Raffles Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, London, The British Library, 2012.
Dozier, L (ed.). Natural History Drawings, The Complete William Farquhar Collection, Malay Peninsula 1803-1818, Singapore, National Museum of Singapore, 2010.