John William Waterhouse: A Hamadryad – 1895
The Female Figure – Hamadryad
One traditional symbolic meaning of the female nude is a Nature spirit. One of these, the Hamadryad, represents a stand of oaks. The Hamadryad is noble, robust, and fertile, full of potential: She oversees the health and wisdom of her trees. The trees are a domain – a place – a graceful, wild, wise, and magic place where people go to meet God, to meet themselves. Hamadryads were depicted as Nature’s seductive playmates; humans partook of their pleasures, solace and wisdom.
Hamadryads perish when their trees die, or suffer when their trees are defiled – their context destroyed, they lose their purpose. Because of rampant overdevelopment, our endowment – the Nature Symbols – is being systematically disembodied, along with Nature itself. To invoke Nature spirits in traditional treatments, without expressing the present threat to their very existence, would be a lie.
Alzofon Art Institute: Explanatory Comments – Symbols