Clarence Bicknell and the Martagon Lily; luxurious brightness

We show three of Clarence’s images of the Martagon Lily here.

Firstly in the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book (Bicknell Collection) which he drew in 1906; every right hand page has a glorious watercolour of a wild plant, here Martagon Lily, and guests signed on the left when visiting his summer home in Casterino in the mountains above Bordighera. Clarence died when the book had about 320 signatures of famous archaeologists, botanists, writers, Esperantists, soldiers and politicians, as well as friends and family. Buy a copy

The second (image right) is from his Children’s Picture Book of Wild Plants (Bicknell Collection), also with a border inspired by the plant.

The third image is of Renchi Bicknell playing Clarence Bicknell, drawing the same flower, in the 2018 film by Rémy Masséglia The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell

Lilium martagon L. (Italian, Giglio martagone or riccio di dama; English, Martagon lily (or Turk’s cap); French, Lis martagon) grows wild in the Italian and French Alps up to 2000 metres altitude in open woods,  grasslands and clearings. Each plant is up to 1.5 metres high, is in bloom from June to July; one head can display from 4 to over 20 flowers, each with six purple-red tepals with dark small dots, each bent backwards. Family of Liliaceae.

Martagon, this Lily’s name, comes from the word for the planet Mars. Alchemists conferred to the bulb of this flower the power to produce both gold and love; the plant certainly brings touches of luxurious brightness and emotive warmth to the mountain grassland.

Notes and photos in the wild by Elisabetta Massardo, Sept. 2021