A 17th-Century Stanchi Painting Reveals the Rapid Change in Watermelons through Selective Breedingby
by Christopher Jobson
Painting:Giovanni Stanchi (Rome c. 1645-1672). Oil on canvas. 38 5/8 x 52½ in. (98 x 133.5 cm.) / Courtesy Christie’s
Old master work paintings are frequently cited for their depiction of historical events, documentation of culture, or portraiture of significant
people, but there’s one lesser known use of some paintings for those with a keen eye: biology. One such instance is this Renaissance still life
of various fruits on a table by Giovanni Stanchi painted sometime in the 1600s that shows a nearly unrecognizable watermelon before it was
selectively bred for meatier red flesh.
Horticulture professor James Nienhuis at the University of Wisconsin tells Vox that he’s fascinated by old still life paintings that often
the only documentation of various fruits and vegetables before we transformed them forever into something more desirable for human use.
Via Kottke and Thisiscolossal