The Language of Flowers

in Walter Benjamin's Grave

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780226790039
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226790008 | DOI:
The Language of Flowers

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This chapter discusses the connections among cartoons, flowers, and the mutilation of corpses. The striking plant illustrations of the eighteenth-century Mutis expedition, many in color, are well known today both inside and outside Colombia, where they are now virtually the icons of the nation—all the more powerful for being natural symbols. Part plant, part human, the mandrake is a precise instance of something hovering between an art of nature and an art in nature, and surely this is what accounts, in part at least, for its magical powers. The technique considered to achieve the best mandrakes, as used in what is now Syria and Asia Minor, was to extract the root, manipulate its shape with cutting and pressure, bandage it, and then replace it in the ground, giving it time to grow some more and thus, when extracted a second time, become “so natural in appearance as to make it difficult or impossible to discern where the artist shaped it.”

Keywords: cartoons; flowers; Mutis expedition; natural symbols; art of nature

Chapter.  9316 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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