Banana trees that made history

Beautiful and inspiring: the Musa muzes

Is the banana the new pineapple? You’d think so, if you look at what’s around nowadays in terms of banana tree lamps, sculptures and assorted banana-related items. For your inspiration, here are five world-famous images starring the banana tree

Josephine Baker's bananas 

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was one of the 20th century’s most famous entertainers. She was known as a civil rights activist, and adopted twelve children from eleven countries. As a performer she made her name at the Folies Bergère, in an act where she wore only a skirt made of artificial bananas. This dress is a tribute to her breakthrough, her origins and her future. You can see the fruit together with banana trees and her notorious skirt, since she also had a sense of humour. 

Haughty banana tree

Spotted in a campaign from Saint Laurent: a sculpture of a banana tree looking very fashionable with a haughty model. The sculpture dates from the middle of the last century and is a sort of copper construction kit. It was incredibly popular amongst the jet set in the 1960s, particularly in America. 

Renoir’s banana trees 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) painted ‘Field with Banana Trees’ (1881) in Algeria when he was already an established artist and could afford an exotic trip. The banana trees were in the Essai garden in Hamma. Renoir painted the trees from a balcony or roof. The multiplicity of shapes and brush marks mean that the trees almost seem to move in the painting. You can spend hours looking at it without getting bored. 

Banana by Prada 

Luxury label Prada devoted an entire collection to banana motifs and leaves in 2011. 

Designer banana tree 

Yukata Sone's sculpture Banana Tree is made of rattan, fibreglass and stainless steel, and is installed outside Pasadena City College. Variations on the theme can be found around the world, including at the David Zwirner Gallery in London. “I think it’s a beautiful stylised shape, and it’s a tree that produces tasty fruit,” says Sone. “There’s nothing about the banana tree that I don’t like.”