In art historical terms, the Passion Flower has appeared in many prints and paintings, including the mysterious painting of Madonna and Child by Joos van Cleve. Flowers in painting have been used for symbolism for many years and understanding what a flower means will give clues to what a painting portrays. The inclusion of a Passion Flower in this Madonna and Child painting refers to the Crucifixion and the Passion of Christ story in which the Virgin Mary shed all her tears. It is also a symbol of the purity of the Christian faith.
This painting was not the first record of the Passion Flower in art. The Moche culture of northern Peru has portrayed the plant and its fruit on ceramic-ware in reference to the banana Passion Flower.