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The Insect and the Image

The Insect and the Image: Visualizing Nature in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The Insect and the Image
    Book Description:

    The Insect and the Image explores the ways in which visual images defined the insect as a proper subject of study for Europeans of the early modern period. Revealing how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists and image makers shaped ideas of the natural world, Janice Neri enhances our knowledge of the convergence of art, science, and commerce today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7841-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    In 1475 a woodcut illustration of insects appeared in Konrad von Megenberg’sBuch der Natur, the earliest natural history book in the German language (Figure I.1). By present-day standards of scientific illustration, and more importantly by the image-making standards that would be established by the end of the sixteenth century, this woodcut image can only be described as schematic or crude. Many different types of insects are jumbled together in a composition that awkwardly wavers between two- and three-dimensional space. The individual insects lack detail and precise description, and they would quickly frustrate any attempt to identify their genus or...

  4. I Insects as Objects and Insects as Subjects:: Establishing Conventions for Illustrating Insects

    • ONE JORIS HOEFNAGEL’S IMAGINARY INSECTS Inventing an Artistic Identity
      (pp. 3-26)

      During the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, insects emerged as objects of study for artists, naturalists, and other practitioners as part of the rising interest in classifying, collecting, and representing the natural world in early modern Europe. The Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel (1542–1601), whose exquisite miniatures were much sought after by northern and central European collectors, directed much of his extraordinary artistic talent toward the depiction of insects. Most of Hoefnagel’s insect imagery is contained in three of the artist’s major works: the two illuminated manuscriptsMira calligraphiae monumentandIgnis(part of the four-volumeFour Elementsseries...

    • TWO CUTTING AND PASTING NATURE INTO PRINT Ulisse Aldrovandi’s and Thomas Moffet’s Images of Insects
      (pp. 27-74)

      During the last quarter of the sixteenth century, insects were a rich subject around which the many and varied interests of naturalists, physicians, artists, and other practitioners coalesced. It was during these years that two naturalists, working separately, began assembling the materials that would lead to two major publications on insects. Ulisse Aldrovandi’sDe animalibus insectisof 1602 and Thomas Moffet’sInsectorum sive minimorum animalium theatrum,¹ published posthumously in 1634, were the first illustrated books on insects to appear in Europe. Although the published versions of these works were separated by a period of over thirty years, the bulk of...

    • THREE SUITABLE FOR FRAMING Insects in Early Still Life Paintings
      (pp. 75-102)

      As I described in chapters 1 and 2, insects emerged as new subject matter during the 1580s and 1590s for European artists and naturalists in courtly, academic, and medical contexts. In this chapter I examine representations of insects in European still life painting from circa 1590 to 1620 and the establishment of insects as subject matter during the formative period of this new genre of painting. As artists developed conventions for representing objects in this new genre, they drew heavily from cultural practices associated with collecting and displaying the natural world, in particular those associated with kunstkammers, cabinets, and natural...

  5. II New Worlds and New Selves

    • FOUR BETWEEN OBSERVATION AND IMAGE Representations of Insects in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia
      (pp. 105-138)

      The English polymath Robert Hooke (1635– 1703) can be credited with a number of mathematical and mechanical inventions, including originating the term “cell” in biology and composing the equation describing elasticity known as Hooke’s Law. But it is Hooke’sMicrographia,published in London in 1665, that is considered a landmark in the history of scientific illustration.¹ His spectacular illustrations of plants, insects, astronomical bodies, and mechanical objects have long been praised for their artistic merit, scrupulous accuracy, and careful attention to detail. With its thirty-eight copperplate engravings,Micrographiastands as a testament to Hooke’s talents as an observer and illustrator....

    • FIVE STITCHES, SPECIMENS, AND PICTURES Maria Sibylla Merian and the Processing of the Natural World
      (pp. 139-180)

      By all accounts, including those written during her own lifetime, Maria Sibylla Merian was a remarkable woman who led an extraordinary life. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1647 into the eminent artistic and publishing family of Matthäus Merian the Elder, Maria Sibylla demonstrated an early passion and talent for the subjects that would come to dominate her professional life. As a child she was fascinated by insects, and she raised silkworms in order to observe the stages of their development. She received artistic training in the workshop of her stepfather Jacob Marrel, where she became skilled in the depiction of...

    (pp. 181-192)

    In this book I have traced the development of the insect as subject matter and the use of insects by artists and other practitioners to construct professional personae through making, circulating, and displaying insects as three-dimensional objects and as two-dimensional images. When the insect emerged as a subject of interest in the sixteenth century, Joris Hoefnagel utilized it as a vehicle for displaying his unrivalled talents as a miniaturist and to satisfy his courtly audiences’ tastes for exotic and unusual entertainments. The naturalists Thomas Moffet and Ulisse Aldrovandi crafted identities around insects that showed them to be trustworthy organizers of...

    (pp. 193-194)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 195-224)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 225-234)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)