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The Language of Flowers

The “Language of Flowers”, also known as Floriography, is the art form of communicating clandestine messages through flowers. In the 18th and 19th centuries, sending a sexy secret code in flowers allowed star-crossed lovers to discreetly communicate romantic desires, sentiments and secret messages through their specific floral choices.

The actual use of flowers as a language appears to have begun in Turkish Harems where the women were able to keep their thoughts unspoken, while still communicating with the servants, their lovers, and each other.

The person who introduced the Language of Flowers to Europe was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of Sir Edward Wortley Montagu, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The couple resided in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey from 1716 to 1718. It was there that Lady Montagu was introduced to the Turkish “Secret Language of Flowers.”

Upon her return to the West, Lady Montegu wrote about the language of flowers in her 1763 book, the “Turkish Embassy Letters”.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, French publishers began publishing “Language of

Flowers” books which served as a dictionary of flowers and their associated meanings. These books were used to decipher the meanings of flower bouquets which contained secret messages hidden in plain sight.

The most famous of these French flower books was “Le Language Des Fleurs”, published in 1819 by Louise Cortambert under the pen name of Madame Charlotte de la Tour.

In the late 20th century, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe popularized new meanings and symbolism between flowers and the human body. Known primarily for sexually charged nudes, Mapplethorpe used flowers as symbols of an aggressive, sensual presence.

Shown below: Lady Montagu in Turkish Dress - 1756

by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702 - 1789).


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