Images as language: a Japanese translation of Vms images.

A Japanese writer “gets” it that pre-modern imagery had to be read as a language, albeit ‘the language of the unlettered’. Said writer has made a fluent translation of some botanical folios. They don’t necessarily look more identifiable, but they look less ‘alien’ – they speak our language, as it were.

I was especially impressed by the ‘translation’ of folio 2v, which retains the original’s odd-looking combination of kidney-shaped leaf and hibiscus-like flower.  Plainly not a ‘waterlily’ as so often said.  But now it looks rather like a nasturtium, doesn’t it?

This is the original:


… and the translation:

2v translateddetail 2v

Here’s a good picture of the white hibiscus showing the calyx.

From the form given the defining leaf, it looks to me as if the hibiscus was considered by the original makers to be related to, or a form of, the nasturtium.

Rorippa nasturtium, otherwise known as the great watercress would be a natural ‘base type’ because it grows pretty well everywhere across the roads from western Europe to the far east.



Rorippa nasturtium acquaticum. Great watercress


More of the translated images here.

Sorry that I cannot tell you the artist’s name. He or she has very modestly not provided it in English and guessing the pronunciation of kanji (characters) is always a bit fraught.


2 thoughts on “Images as language: a Japanese translation of Vms images.

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