Floral languages

As Rudolf Borchardt pointed out, “for ninety-nine percent, the figurative expressions that human languages ​​possess are taken from the world of plants; for ninety-nine percent, all ornamental forms derive from the flower “.

Which in its essence is therefore a bearer of meaning at once punctual and polysemic.

In their multifaceted suggestion, to flowers we attribute close correlations with human feelings in a system of rules that makes aspiration to a language. The genealogy of which now tells Isabel Kranz in his words Le parole dei fiori. An alphabet of the plant language , Bompiani, pp. 176, € 27.00.


Going back to the traces of this cultural history, the author identifies its origin, following the general aspiration to systematize the world, which translates into the binomial classification of Carlo Linnaeus, in the bestseller published in Paris in 1819 under the pseudonym of Madame Charlotte de Latour, entitled The language of flowers (Olschki, 2008). Destined mainly to a female audience to devise messages to be transmitted through flowers, this manual mostly embodies the ideality of a chaste love, in the sign of the bourgeois conception of marriage.

If after Latour the fashion of the books on the language of flowers spreads in Europe and then in the United States with the function of entertainment, already in the mid-800 is metaphor frequent in the relationship of other variants of sexuality with the sphere of vegetable, from the titles, with La signora delle camelie , as with the flowers of evil . While, from the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe to the photos of Imogen Cunningham or Robert Mapplethorpe, a series of artistic contributions will be exhibiting the eroticism of the flowers.

The game of volume is then to follow and recompose, when not playfully vary, the universality and coexistence of the different floral languages, with their disciplinary variants, the different registers, where the essential descriptive precision of the taxa slips into the idiom of imaginifices. technicalities.

In his alphabetical scan of flowers found in nature as well as sprung from fantasy, from literature to cinema, from romantic comedies to floral novels , botanical descriptions from the undoubted poetic implication, quotations of the floral language, appropriately varied illustrations taken from historical reproductions, The invitation is then to compose, with floristic expertise, the flower of those “open signs” that from the story of the rhododendron chosen in an all-female election as official flower of the Washington State in 1893, foreshadowing, shortly thereafter, the The general right to vote for women, the intrigue of flower girl ‘s tricks at the Blue Gardenia of Fritz Lang’s film, introduce us to the Ice Flowers that Walter Benjamin or other Paper Flowers would like to write. Always from the Poetaceae family.

Isabel Kranz, The words of flowers. An alphabet of the plant language , translation by Francesca Gabelli, Bompiani, pp. 176, € 27.00, reviewed by Andrea Di Salvo on Alias ​​of Sunday VIII, 17, Supplement of Il Manifesto of May 13, 2018

Published in Reviews Tagged Charles Linnaeus , Charlotte de Latour , floral novels , Fritz Lang , Georgia O’Keeffe , The language of flowers , language of flowers , Robert Mapplethorpe , rhododendron , Rudolf Borchardt , cultural history of the garden , Walter Benjamin