Monday, April 16, 2012


Bleeding Trees

From Eric Thomson, via email:
I thought of you yesterday in the National Gallery looking at a painting by Giovanni Bellini, The Assassination of St Peter Martyr. The grisly deed is perpetrated against a background of woodsmen felling a forest, so that the raised dagger of the assassin comes into alignment with the raised axe of one of the woodsmen. It's a parallelism underscored in another version (in the Courtauld Institute) in which the stumps bleed and so share in St Peter's martyrdom.
The National Gallery version:

The Courtauld Institute version:

Note the bleeding stump in the lower right hand corner of the Courtauld Institute version.

I haven't seen Jennifer Fletcher and David Skipsey, "Death in Venice: Giovanni Bellini and The Assassination of St Peter Martyr," Apollo 133, no. 347 (January 1991) 4-9, or Donald S. Prudlo, The Martyred Inquisitor: The Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (†1252) (Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2008), but I did read Prudlo's fascinating account of the murderer, "The Assassin-Saint: The Life and Cult of Carino of Balsamo," Catholic Historical Quarterly 94.1 (January 2008) 1-21. The murder weapon may have been a bill-hook, usually used in tree pruning: see Prudlo's article, p. 5 (with footnote 13) and pp. 11-12 (with footnotes 37-38).

Some examples of bleeding trees in literature:The following discussions are unavailable to me:


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