Author: lydiaowens

Information Question

I would like to examine the relationship between the growth of the total visits to the Smithsonian Museums (or another Museum) and the growth of the American population.  Does this growth reflect the Museums actually getting more people to attend, or a constant number when factoring in population growth?




Words, numbers, and images: Renaissance Coins

           I really enjoyed this article much more than the past two.  It was clear and applicable to every day life.  It reminded me of a project I am working on right now in my Renaissance art class.  I am researching Renaissance coins; English ones in particular.  These coins are a combination of words, numbers, and images.  All three of these elements relate to one another.

         In an article called Counting Out Their Coins (which I can forward to anyone who is interested), it states:  “The truth is that coinage, in the early sixteenth century, was notoriously unstable, imprecise, and problematic.”

            In sixteen-century Europe, coins circulated freely.  They had an ambiguous nature due to their not uniform nature (thank goodness for the Euro!).  Coins had no geographical boundaries.  They had no exact exchange values.  A cornucopia of different coins were drawn to trade centers. 


            Art and money have always had intersecting paths.  To this day, art and money are one.  Art has a monetary value in markets.  Money and patrons affect art’s pictorial style.  Artists have always played with ideas of signifying functions of money in their art.  Art and money can become visually one to two ways: money depicted in art or art imprinted on money.

           Money further had, and still has, depictions of designs or people displayed on it.  In this example, Queen Elizabeth has her profile portrait displayed for people onlooking (image).  Around her reads (text), something to the affect of, “Elizabeth, Queen of England, Church of England… etc.”  It has a monetary value inscribed as well (numbers).

          By looking at the coins from the Renaissance and the interactions of images, numbers, and words, we are able to put into practice what Tufte is saying and catch a glimpse into a different era.

Arrows Linking Information

Arrows show connection.  Arrow graphs can be used to show information connections between different events, inspiration, or people.

All in all, I do not like linking graphs.  For me, they are too confusing and do more for aesthetics than for actual information display.  Does that mean that they are meaningless? No!  They have a time and a place to be used.  I personally believe that other ways of graphing can present information in a more understandable and presentable way.

I find arrow mapping very confusing.  Like the small line graphs from last week, these arrows and text try to convey a big amount of information in a little amount of space.  Take Verrocchio’s sketch of a horse as an example:  Because the definitions of connections are so small, viewers tend to only see the horse as a whole.  This makes for an interesting artwork, but in my mind, an unproductive linking image.  Further, the examples graphing modern art were highly confusing due to congestion for information and seemingly unorganized data.     

 I was listening to a Ted Talk the other day on missing links in Darwinism (  For me, this tied together why we need linking diagrams (although they are not my favorite).  These linking diagrams allow for connections to be seen, however complex and unappealing the information display may be. 

Tufte ends this chapter by explaining how Galileo mapped specific information “as detailed annotations.”  He did so by describing and articulating each and every link between connections.  Although this makes for a complicated image, it works well to explain in detain connections between items.

Tufte: Durer Mapping Examples


This is Durer’s self portrait as a 13 year old goldsmith apprentice.  He signs the work with year and what he was doing at the time.


This shows Durer finding the source of his “melancholy” or modern day depression.  It was thought to come from the appendix.  He maps his body through his emotions.


Durer’s famous 1500 portrait.  He not only maps himself in a year, but as Christ by drawing visual comparisons.


Durer’s first attempt at mapping a Rhino (an animal he has never seen before).  He maps nature with accompanying text (and his famous signature). 



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.



Visual Analysis Photo

For my visual analysis, I picked a woodcut broadsheet from 1529 by Georg Pencz.  It is called The Content of Two Sermons.  It visually displays all of the important spiritual messages from the Protestant revolution.  Although it has accompanying text, it is not required to understanding the meaning of the work.Image