There are beetles in my garden and some West Nile-carrying mosquitoes in Salem: I’ve got bugs on the brain. On a more pleasurable note, the Getty Museum has expanded access to thousands of its digitized images through its new Open Content Initiative. Another treasure trove to explore (and eat up time)! One of the most precious manuscripts in the world is in the Getty collection, the Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, or Model Book of Calligraphy, the collaboration of two late Renaissance artists who never met! In this first age of printing, when it was feared that the skill and beauty of writing would soon be lost, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I commissioned his court scribe, George Bocskay, to produce the Model Book; 30 years later, his grandson Rudolf II instructed his court artist, Joris Hoefnagel, to illustrate it. And thus the beautiful little (6+ inches by 4+ inches) was created, over the period from about 1561 to 1591.
Hoefnagel (1542-1601) worked in every medium and all over Europe: though generally classified as a Netherlandish artist he also spent time in England and really flourished in central Europe at the courts of two major royal patron-collectors, Albert V, the Duke of Bavaria, and Rudolph II, who was in the process of assembling the largest Kunst- and Wunderkammer (“Cabinets” or collections of art and natural wonders) of the era. While in Munich, he completed his three encyclopedic collections of zoological and botanical miniatures, Animalia Aqvatilia et Cochiliate (Aqva), Animalia Volatilia et Amphibia (Aier), and Animalia Rationalia et Insecta, between 1575 and 1580. These images are amazing blends of art and science, and while the animals are compelling (especially the hairy people–more in a later post), the insects almost jump off their pages!
Joris Hoefnagel’s insect miniatures, watercolor and gouache on vellum, 1575-1580, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Is Hoefnagel’s inspiration primarily artistic or scientific? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, really. He is a transitional artist in so many ways–transitioning between the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, between manuscript culture and print culture, between the medieval miniature and the early modern still life with his precise eye for detail. But at the same time he is merging all these things rather than evolving from one to another. At about the same time that he was engaged in his “collaboration” with Bockskay, Hoefnagel was part of another artistic partnership, this time with his son, the teenaged Jacob Hofsnaegel, whose collection of printed botanical and entomological engravings, Archetypa Studiaque Patris (1592) was inspired by his father’s early allegorical drawings and accompanying verse. You can see more of the younger Hoefnagel’s images here and here, as well as at the British Museum.
Joris Hoefnagel, Allegory of Winter, c. 1589 (The Louvre, Paris); and Insects and the Head of the Wind God, c. 1590-1600 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Jacob Hoefnagel, frontspiece and plates from Archetypa Studiaque Patris Georgi (Joris) Holfnaegeli, 1592 (British Museum, London).
Below: Art and nature, father and son, INSECTS: Allegory on Life and Death, Prague, 1598: Figure and landscape within oval drawn by Jacob Hoefnagel, surrounding flora, fauna and bugs, by Joris Hoefnagel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
August 28th, 2013 at 10:32 am
These are amazing. I am going to check out the Open Content Initiative as well.
August 28th, 2013 at 10:33 am
A great new resource.
August 28th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
Glorious, I have been really excited by this initiative!! And those illustrations are so compelling aren’t they?
August 28th, 2013 at 6:17 pm
Very. I’m trying to figure out why I like pictures of bugs but not bugs in reality.
August 29th, 2013 at 9:29 am
I am exactly the same! There is something about the scale and their capacities that amaze I think. but if there’s a spider in the bath it’s doomed I’m afraid.
July 9th, 2016 at 10:08 pm
These images are gorgeous!! Thank you for sharing. Hope you dodge the West-Nile misquitoes!