Insects in Art

When you reflect on famous artists and their work, like the Mona Lisa by DaVinci for instance, you can immediately appreciate the beauty of their masterpiece. However, when the subject of an artwork is an insect, you might have a little more trouble seeing the beauty in it before wanting to call an exterminator! The brave souls who did make insects their muse had an appreciation for natural history, especially during the 17th century.

Studying bugs for their connection to the earth and nature led to some beautiful creations by Albrecht Dürer such as the Stag Beetle. Dürer said of art, “It is indeed true that art is omnipresent in nature, and the true artist is he who can bring it out.”

Albrecht Durer, Stag Beetle, 1505

Albrecht Durer, Stag Beetle, 1505

Some artists liked to focus on butterflies because they represented transformation and resurrection. Wenceslaus Hollar’s drawing Forty-One Insects, Moths and Butterflies features a collection of bugs of different varieties on displaying much like a “cabinet of curiosity.” Check out this painting and more below!

Wenceslaus Hollar, Forty-One Insects, Moths and Butterflies, 1646

Wenceslaus Hollar, Forty-One Insects, Moths and Butterflies, 1646

Robert Hooke, Ant, from Micrographia London, 1665

Robert Hooke, Ant, from Micrographia
London, 1665

Maria Sibyla Merian, Branch of guava tree with leafcutter ants, army ants, pink-toed tarantulas, c. 1701-5

Maria Sibyla Merian, Branch of guava tree with leafcutter ants, army ants, pink-toed tarantulas, c. 1701-5

Melissa Brown
mbrown@callnorthwest.com

Source:

http://venetianred.net/2010/04/20/the-busy-bee-has-no-time-for-sorrow-insects-in-art/

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Mythical Origins of Insects

People love a good myth. These narratives contribute bright symbolism of interactions between higher powers, people, and nature. They assist in many relevant functions as well as further adding colorful stories. One valuable role of myths is to illustrate some angle of life.

Several myths describe the beginnings, morphology, and conduct of various insects. Here are just a few:

The origin of mosquitoes is revealed by The Tlingit Indians of North America.  The narration tells of a blood sucking carnivorous giant who dines on humans. This giant is eventually avenged after his horrific death by coming back to feed on humans in the appearance of blood sucking mosquitoes.

An Algonquin tale of North America justifies why bees, wasps, and hornets have stingers. This myth grants that the god Wakonda bestowed stingers to bees because the bees were industrious, but required a defense. Since wasps and hornets are linked to bees, The Great Spirit willingly endowed them with stinging weapons as well.

Ant actions are revealed in an African myth that reminds us of the everlasting punishments of Atlas, Prometheus, and Sisyphus of classical mythology. An infinite punishment of bearing a burden is handed down to ants by deception in the African myth. Accordingly, we see the outcome today in ants repeatedly transporting things in their everyday routine.

Atlas

And on an absolutely universal spectrum, the composition of our galaxy, The Milky Way, is translated in an insect myth of the Cochiti. This myth tells of an Eleodes Beetle that was in charge of depositing stars in the sky. The stars were dropped due to his ego and recklessness, thus forming the Milky Way. The beetle was so distraught at what he had done, that even today, the beetle hides his face in the dirt when approached – will lower its head, raise its abdomen, and emit a disagreeable odor probably for defense. This simple insect myth explains not only insect behavior, but also the start of our own galaxy.

Beetle

Who are your favorite mythological characters?