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From Botticelli to Bletchley Park

Part 2: Cracking the code

The relevance of this is that Renaissance mythological paintings are the supreme example of artistic code-making and code-breaking, and unravelling them requires similar skills to those employed at Bletchley Park. Indeed, a number of art historians were employed there during the Second World War.

There are, however, two aspects to code-breaking. The first is simply to crack the code and make sense of the random jumbled letters, or - in art - the baffling imagery. The second is to understand the "Bigger Picture". At Bletchley Park, there were crypt-analysts who made sense of the jumbled letters. They sent their individual decoded result to British High Command, who then had to fathom the Bigger Picture. So it is with art. We need to break the code in the individual works of art, and then read the bigger picture that is formed by them collectively.

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