A Georgian obsession with sought-after exotic fruit, and the means by which it could be displayed

Now then, this particular composition was
prompted by an interesting and unusual article that we have previously made available for sale and which would
have quite rightly made for an impressive centre piece on any self-respecting dining
table at the turn of the 19th century. Which is a stroke of good
fortune as that was precisely its intended purpose.

A pineapple stand. It may seem a
little odd to have something specifically designed to display these curious
articles (nasty things – full of string if you ask me), but two centuries ago ananas comosus was far more than just a
novel and exotic foodstuff, or something to cut into circles and adorn early
pizza (Captain Cook’s untimely demise had barely registered as breaking news by
1780, so not sure that the whole “Hawaiian” concept was, at the time, all that

To be able to present the fruits to
dinner guests was a status symbol, pure and simple. Introduced to Europe in the
mid-17th century by Dutch colonists returning from Suriname in South America,
they soon became firm favourites amongst the higher echelons of society as a
means to make it perfectly clear that one had considerable amounts of
disposable income available to expend on such fripperies. They could be
purchased only at a prohibitive price due to the expense of either importing them
from halfway around the known world, or of having them grown in purpose built –
sometimes willfully extravagant – greenhouses, known as pineries or pineapple

As the great houses of Regency
England were designed and built in the early years of the century, the most
elegant and eruditely composed of them would have included a pinery. Witness if
you will John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore, who not only had such a
structure added to his family seat near Falkirk, but for good measure had it
crowned with a carved stone pineapple almost fifty feet high. To be strictly
fair, Dunmore’s folly set the standard some years before such profligacy became
commonplace, being built in the 1760’s, and it admirably illustrated the
requisite level of ostentatious self-aggrandisement to which subsequent undertakings
were required to aspire. The theft of pineapples from these buildings was
considered to be a most scurillous crime – with the provision of intelligence
leading to the apprehension of thieves meriting a considerable reward. As was
often the case with the idle rich of the time, somewhat vacuous pursuits – such
as pineapple growing – would become intensely competitive with members of the
aristocracy striving to outdo one another. Dunmore’s Pineapple is without peer
in Britain, but at Royal courts across Europe equally extravagant measures were
taken to create facilities in which to cultivate the fruits. When the prickly
and unpalatable articles were successfully propagated – which was no certainty
by any stretch of the imagination given the prevailing climate – any one fruit would
then be “shown” on as many occasions as possible before it started to look
somewhat worse for wear and go rotten, which would rather diminish its impact.

Given the penchant of the wealthy at
the time for the flamboyant display of their expensively acquired wares, it was
never going to be a case of propping your prized pineapple up against a
candelabra or decanter and hoping that it would fascinate, captivate and
impress your dinner guests. The things demanded that due diligence be
undertaken for purpose of their presentation at table and, with the prevailing
predisposition for extensive (and expensive) dinner services as enthusiastically
embraced as ever, the purpose-made pineapple stand was – errrr – ripe to assume
its role at the focal point of the most highly regarded dining tables in polite

Our example hails from the latter
period of the pineapple’s ascendency as a decorative objet d’art, is of English
origin and is substantially made and exquisitely cut and sliced in fine lead
crystal. It may be considered as having little more than novelty value today
which rather depreciates the grandiloquent seriousness of its originally
intended purpose, but make no mistake that it was conceived in deadly earnest –
the importance of affecting superiority over one’s peers in Regency England was
not to be taken lightly. That said, if you do wish to present a pineapple for nothing
more than the amusement of your guests, rather than to make a serious point
about your flourishing affluence and swaggeringly robust financial wellbeing, then
it remains a very fine thing to get hold of indeed – just don’t turn it upside
down and use it to serve trifle, that’s all…

full details of our pineapple stand