A Study of a Rambutan (nephelium lappaceum)
A large, thick branch with oval-shaped leaves in shades of dark green, emerald, lime and light yellow fills the composition. The artist has painted small, new green shoots with white flowers and small dark green unripen fruit also growing from the branch. Five rambutan fruits weigh down the shoot to the lower right side of the painting. They are a dark orange, pale peach and green with elongated ‘spines’ which give the fruit a hairy look. The colours of the fruit illustrate the different stages of their ripening process. On the right hand side the artist has depicted, starting from the left, the half empty husk or outer casing, in the middle is the complete fleshy fruit and then the seed or stone. The rambutan, identified in black ink at the bottom of the image, is one of the most typical of Southeast Asian fruits. It is a medium sized tree, which grows in Yunnan and the Philippines southwards through Indo-China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Many types are farmed for their sweet pulp (or ‘sarcotesta’), while the fruits’ walls, roots, leaves and bark may be used for medicinal purposes. The Janet Hutton Collection, Edinburgh, of botanical art features a study of a rambutan which is visibly similar to our painting (Noltie, p. 12, fig. 2). The composition and palette are akin to our example; the rambutans are also located in the bottom right hand side of the painting, hanging from a shoot.
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.