Semiotic Codes of Versailles


IMGI have already discussed some of the semiotic codes of Versailles — fans and birthmarks; and in the context of a painting by Antonine Watteau, Cousin, I have mentioned the language of flowers. Today I would like to illustrate how that language actually worked. Let’s take a concrete example of setting up an appointment. Generally, if a lady displays blue-bells, she means to meet you at dawn; but if she shows up with a bouquet of white roses, expect her by noon; a faded rose stands for lunch time; an orange blossom suggests 4 p.m.; violets — after dinner; and four-o’clock flower signifies midnight. Finally, when we see a gentleman pacing nervously in the park, we have to assume a case of very bad communication: perhaps he got the wrong idea and the index simply was not there — a rose is a rose; or, what could be worse, it wasn’t intended for him?

Other codes: Fans, Birthmarks.

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