Inspiration Behind the Print: Red Rose

Red Rose Sheer Enchantment

Romance and sophistication meet in Red Rose. Shown here: Red Rose Sheer Enchantment Babydoll with G-String ($98). Available on

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Hanky Panky brings you Red Rose, a new print for lace and mesh.

Red Rose is a modern take on a timeless symbol of romantic love. Unlike last summer’s Vintage Rose print, which had the softness of an oil painting, Red Rose has the crisp hyper-realism of a photograph. For me, Red Rose calls to mind the modernist floral photography of Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976), Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973), and Konrad Cramer (German, naturalized American, 1888-1963), except that those early photographs were black-and-white, and our print for fabric is flushed with red.

Rose Abstraction c. 1935 Konrad Cramer

Konrad Cramer, Rose Abstraction, 1935. The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.

So when did the red rose become the emblem of l’amour?

Marilyn (with roses), 1962, Bert Stern

Bert Stern, Marilyn (1962).

Around 100 B.C., Bion of Phlossa near Smyrna, an Ancient Greek poet who felt the world was small enough to forego a last name, ascribed the birth of the red rose to the blood shed by Adonis, Aphrodite’s lover, after Adonis was fatally wounded in a boar hunt:

“[Aphrodite] weeps and Adonis bleeds, drop for drop, and the blood and tears become flowers upon the ground. Of the blood comes the rose, and of the tears the windflower [Anemone].”
The Bucolic Poets, trans. J.M. Edmonds. Loeb Classical Library, 1912.

1,300 or so years later, “Rose” was the name of the sought-after maiden in Le Roman de la Rose, an allegorical poem on the art of courtly love, which was an instant bestseller in medieval France. (Well, as “instant” as you can get when monks had to hand-write and illustrate each copy.)

Roman de la Rose

Roman de la Rose, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1864. Rossetti’s watercolor was inspired by illustrated manuscripts of the 13th century French poem of the same name. Tate Britain, London.

In Victorian England, young women snapped up books on “the language of flowers” to find hidden meanings in the flower bouquets given to them by young men, but the meaning of the red rose required no translation. Love and Beauty, with as many variations on the theme as there are rose varieties: Beauty ever-new (Damask Rose); Capricious Beauty (Musk Rose); Elegance (Rose Acacia); Loveliness (Pompon Rose); and The Graces (Hundred-leaved Rose). You might expect the practice of speaking through flowers to lead to misunderstandings, but the English, they say, are great gardeners.

The Language of Flowers

Cover of The Language of Flowers (1869), by Robert Tyas.

So go ahead. This Valentine’s Day, say it with flowers and wear your heart on your sleeve (or your bosom or your bum) with Red Rose.



About Hanky Panky

In 1977, designer Gale Epstein created a hand-made lingerie set for her friend, Lida Orzeck, crafted out of embroidered handkerchiefs. The original designs were the inspiration for the company name, Hanky Panky. Blending traditional with modern glam looks, Hanky Panky is a fashion favorite of countless celebrities.
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