Queen Cornaro's Castle
The Fortress of Asolo on Mount Ricco
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the hill town and fortress
Leaving the bus, I began walking up the hill to Asolo and saw Queen Cornaro's castle to the left, and further up as I approached the town, the Rocca or fortress of Asolo to the right.
Bellini describes a townscape in the background of the St Francis painting, composed of what appears to be a fortress on a hill with a bell tower and a lower town section. We must account for much architectural change when contemplating the extent to which Bellini’s townscape is topographically accurate but it is interesting to explore the possibility that he may be describing Asolo
Certainly, there is a similarity between the appearance of the fortress of Asolo, its lower town section and Bellini's townscape, but his fortress includes a bell tower which does not recall the 10th century fortress structure on Mount Ricco. Bellini's lower town section also includes a walled fortification linking the entrance to the town with other towers and buildings, but it does not extend to the top of the hill. Asolo’s walled fortification changed at many points in its history but the definitive form of the wall was made with the Paduan dominion of Asolo in 1381 and 1388 and its final city fortification completed by the Venetians. The circuit of the wall was not limited to the settled area and the castle complex but extended as far as the fortress at the top of Mount Ricco. This might suggest therefore that Bellini's townscape is not a topographically accurate description of Asolo.
More certainly, if we consider the context of the architecture Bellini describes in this section of the painting, the landscape is dominant and may reference the mountainous landscape of the Dolomites foothills generally. Exploring the town, I found the landscape view from the path leading up to the Fortress most relevant in terms of Bellini’s description of landscape in this section of the painting which does seem to evoke the foothills, with its typical hill towns, agricultural activity and distant blue horizon of the Dolomites.