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White Campion (Silene Latifolia)
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St Francis in Ecstasy.jpg

the white flower

The Frick Collection investigations into the St Francis suggest Bellini describes twelve plants in the painting; Grapevines (Vitis Vinifera), Spleenwort (Asplenium species) Ivy leaved toad flax (Cymbalaria muralis) Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) Orris (Iris germanica var orentina) Mullein or Jacob’s staff (Verbascum Thapsus), Juniper (juniperus communis), Fig tree (Ficus), Wild maidenhair spleenwort (asplenium tricohomanes) English Ivy (Hedera Helix), Wild Laurel (Laurus nobilis) and Michaelmas Daisies (Aster amellus).


I agree with and dispute some of these identifications in my previous and current research. I believe the Frick collections research into the plants possibly described in the St Francis painting can be expanded on not only to identify further plants in the painting, but to provide insights into the the kind of landscape and urban environments Bellini may be referencing through descriptions of particular plant species. I am not a botanist, but I am an active looker and the following formed a starting point for further research into the plants represented in the St Francis painting when I visited the Asolo site in 2012. This study began with an investigation into the flora of Mount Ricco which along with other landscape sites could be represented in the painting. There are many more, but the following relates to my interest in the kind of flora that grow in the Dolomite foothills.

Bellini depicts a small white flower on a number of occasions in the St Francis painting, mainly on the rocky edge of the central rock formation overlooking the saint. The Frick Collection proposes that this is a representation of bindweed. I disagree with this proposition, as the white flowers Bellini depicts are tiny and don't appear to be climbers. Occasionally a trumpet like flower is depicted which could be said to be the shape of bindweed, but an open, 5 petal white flower is also depicted, which I believe is likely to be a white wild flower, such as White Campion or Meadow Saxifrage which as my botanical research suggests are typical wild white flowers present in rocky northern Italian landscapes.The painted accuracy of the white flower is certainly disputable, but it is important to make the point that in other works by Bellini such as Pieta detta Donà delle Rose, c 1505, the artist and/or his workshop showed accurate botanical knowledge of bindweed to scale, so an inaccurate representation of bindweed in the St Francis painting seems unlikely.

Further plants that I identified on the Mount Ricco landscape site in 2012 are as follows:

White Campion (Silene Latifolia) W

Wild Garlic (Allium Ursinum) W

European Michaelmas-Daisy (Aster Amellus) W

English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

Common Fig (Ficus Carica)

Bramble (Rubus)

Common Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Dandelion (Taraxacum)

Jaffa Groundsel (Senecio glaucus)

Italian Honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium)

European beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Wild Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum)

Cows Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Pink sorrel (Oxalis articulata)

Pending indentification, Yellow flower, green stamen

Elderflower (Sambucus)

Sweetvetch (Hedysarum)

Possibly Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Please continue with my journeys in search of the landscapes and plants possibly associated with the St Francis painting. 

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