Mapped Images- Tufte

 “If you look after truth and goodness, beauty looks after herself.”

Eric Gill

Tufte defines intense observing as “the wide-eyed observing that generated empirical information.”  He wants to examine in the book how “seeing turns into showing,” as well as helping us readers successfully produce and consume images.

  Tufte argues that all explanatory images should be mapped.  This could be by scale, explanation, overlay, numbers, text or image.  I thought it was interesting that he said all images should be mapped, but this could be accomplished through images. 

Art is always diagramed to convey messages, even if it is not shown as explicitly as text or a scale.  As an art history major, all of my examples are probably going to be art.    I am specializing in Northern Europe studies from 1450-1600.  So my examples will probably be from this period as well.  Sorry about that.  But, an example of this interesting concept would be personal devotion objects.  They were layered with imagery that were direct references to scriptural doctrine.  Pictured below is the Merode Altarpiece which is a small triptych.  The images were decoded messages. 


Vase with white flowers: Virgin Mary’s womb with pure Christ blossoming    

            Blocked fireplace: No fires of passion, virginity of Mary

            Small cherub descending from the window: enroute to Mary’s womb

            The clean brass vessel hanging in the wall: uncooked

            The ruffled pages of the Bible: Christ’s presence coming (“I am the Word.”)

All of these images speak to legitimizing Mary’s virginity and purity.

Through visual images and decoded messages, artists and literally anyone can convey explicit messages through images.





  1. I enjoy the idea of taking the readings and applying them to your major. It’s nice to have multiple majors and viewpoints in the classroom. In your case, it really comes in handy in breaking down the visual along side the verbal. I’m sure you can bring in many in-depth examples from previous work in other classes. Keep the tie-ins to your major coming.

  2. I liked your use of quotes from the reading as well as outside source ones. They help make your point nicely. Your outside source picture is also very good. The mapping done within this work being actual images themselves made it a good visual to use.

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