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I love the collection of art you have in your blog. Especially the two-crossed lovers. Are you an artist yourself?

Art History Today

No Cheesa, I'm not. Art historians who actually paint are rare.

c @ penbrushneedle

Fascinating post (as always). What intrigues me most are your thoughts on the combination of Raphael's signature and the dandelion. Somehow this reminds me of the so called Nelkenmeister ("Carnation masters"), a group of painters active in Switzerland from ca. 1480-1510 (i.e. roughly contemporary with Raphael). While their paintings bear no signature, most of them feature one or more painted carnation(s) placed prominently in the foreground. It's likely that, at first, the carnations were included merely because of their symbolic meaning (as symbols of the Virgin Mary), but over the years they definitely developed into something like an ersatz-signature or a workshop-trademark of those particular artists. I wonder if something similar could have been the case with Raphael's dandelions...



What a week for Bellini's St Francis - first Elkins has a red hot go at The Huffington Post and now this! Super stuff!

With regards to the Bellini work, I am very fond of the reading forwarded by Princeton's John V. Fleming, which Frank DeStefano did a great job at summarising in a January 2011 guest post at 3PP. For those curious - the link is here:


With regards to Raphael, his approach to the landscape seems quite malleable, and equally as adaptive to the great forces which affected his style as he progressed from exposure to Perugino, Leonardo and beyond. Looking at the Doni portraits for example - is there no clearer example of Leonardo's view of nature manifesting itself to Raphael?

The dandelion has been a perennially symbolic plant, and still is to this day. In Western art - we must be careful to ascribe its correct contextual meaning. In Christian art particularly, often in depictions of Christ, or Martyr Saints such as Catherine of Alexandria, the dandelion was universally recognised as a symbol of grief.

Looking at WHH's emotionally charged image, I would say he was deploying this older meaning of the flower - because by Victorian times the dandelion had morphed into a symbol of love and hope(something which we still have today eg. it is the symbol of the Make-A-Wish Charity which supports children stricken with illness and their families).

A great reference on WHH's symbolic attributes in Rienzi is available online: Replete with Meaning: William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism by GP Landow.


For a great reference on floral symbolism, I recommend Gertrude Jobes amazing 3 volume Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbolism.

I must admit, I was surprised you did a post on Renaissance botany and not mention Botticelli!

Now there is a man who was clearly obsessed by plants! We all know Primavera of course, but equally worth contemplating for its botanical features is his 1484 Bardi Altarpiece - something which may pop up in a post at 3PP in the not too distant future!

Kind Regards

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The man who perceives rightly, because he does not feel, and to whom the primrose is very accurately the primrose, because he does not love it. Then, secondly, the man who perceives wrongly, because he feels, and to whom the primrose is anything else than a primrose: a star, or a sun, or a fairy’s shield, or a forsaken maiden. And then, lastly, there is the man who perceives rightly in spite of his feelings, and to whom the primrose is for ever nothing else than itself- a little flower apprehended in the very plain and leafy fact of it, whatever and how many soever the associations and passions may be that crowd around it.” (Ruskin, cited in Clark, Landscape into Art, 38-9).

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Landscape and Symbol: The Secret Life of Plants. - Art History Today

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