A Study of a Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)

Probably Penang, Malaysia, 19th century

38cm high, 48cm wide

Watercolour with gum Arabic heightened with body colour on English paper watermarked 'Ruse & Turners 1825’.

Provenance: UK private collection, purchased in the US in the 1970s.


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Full Description

A Study of a Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)

Half a watermelon with back seeds and pink flesh appears beside another large watermelon and a young fruit, as flowering buds open along the vine.

Originating from West Africa, watermelons are an annual plant with long climbing or trailing stems. As members of the cucurbitaceae family they are related to pumpkins, bitter gourds and cucumbers. The flowers may be white or yellow with male and female blooms appearing on the same plant. They bear generous rounded fruits with typically deep pink succulent flesh and large seeds. Known as saga semangka in Malay, the roasted seeds are a popular snack and may also be ground into flour.  

Ancient cultivars of watermelon species have been discovered in the Nile Valley dating back to the second millennium BCE and watermelon seeds were found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. 

The present work bears likeness to a study of a watermelon in the Farquhar Collection, (William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, in the National Museum of Singapore (ac. 1995-3129). Both illustrations depict a large green fruit with half a watermelon beside it, illustrating the vivid flesh and clusters of seeds. A young fruit appears above this as leaves and flowers are borne along the meandering vine.  

Further Literature:

Laura Dozier (ed.). 2010. Natural History Drawings, The Complete William Farquhar Collection, Malay Peninsula 1803-1818. Singapore: National Museum of Singapore.

G.G. Khim. 1999. The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings. Singapore: Goh Geok Khim.

A Study of a Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)