This is a collection of the incredibly beautiful and famous antique insect art by Joris Hoefnagel.
Joris Hoefnagel (1542-1601) was a famous 16th-century Flemish artist and merchant. He was mainly well known for his illustrations of natural history subjects, topographical views, drawings and mythological works.
As an artist, he was self-taught. Hoefnagel painted with watercolours, gouache and gold to produce some of the most amazing miniature paintings of animals.
Another famous collection of Hoefnagel was the natural history illuminations he painted in the renowned renaissance book “Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta.“
Insect Art Prints from the Four Elements
His most famous work is the Four Elements which comprises four volumes of miniature paintings of the natural world reflecting the four elements of fire, earth, air and sea.
The drawings of the animals were divided according to the elements.
The insect art prints curated here are from the first volume Animalia rationalia et insecta (ignis); Insects and fire.
The other volumes were:
- Animalia quadrupedia et reptilia (terra) ; Footed animals and reptiles, (earth).
- Animalia aquatilia et conchiliata (aqua); Aquatic animals and creatures of the sea (water).
- Animalia volatilia et amphibia (aier); Birds and amphibians, animals of the air.
Hoefnagel did not paint all the works in the book but rather copied from other artists’ works. These included a series of drawings by the Antwerp animal painter Hans Verhagen den Stommen and woodcuts from Konrad Gessner’s Historia Animalium.
Hoefnagels’ excellent book on the natural world was critical to 16th-century science. It provided a compendium of the entire known animal world at that time.
These insect illustrations also influenced the famous Flemish and Dutch still-life art. Especially the still-life flower paintings that often featured insects too.
The downloaded insect paintings will be of a higher resolution than the images below.
To download the antique Insect Art prints, click on the highlighted title link, and a larger image of the insect drawings will open in a new window in your browser. You can then print this image or save it to your hard drive.
The name stag beetle is due to the large and distinctive mandibles found on the males of most species, which resemble the stags’ antlers.
Hoefnagel’s insect illustration of four yellow butterflies.
Butterflies are insects with skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called exoskeletons. This protects the insect and keeps water inside their bodies, so they don’t dry out.
Like all insects, butterflies have three body parts: the head, the thorax with wings and six legs, and the abdomen.
There are about 18,500 named species of butterflies. They can be found on all continents except Antarctica, as it is too cold for them to survive there.
There is a collection of vintage butterfly images on Picture Box Blue.
Dragonflies are a common emblem on cultural artefacts such as pottery, rock paintings, statues, and Art Nouveau jewellery. They are used in traditional medicine in Japan and China and caught for food in Indonesia.
Moths, like butterflies, belong to the scientific order Lepidoptera. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth, most of which are nocturnal.
The lilac flower looks a bit like a bluebell, (but I have now been informed it’s a columbine), which grows wild on the forest floor and is popular with insects.
I know these insect drawings were from the work by Joris Hoefnagel titled Animalia rationalia et insecta (ignis); Insects and fire. However, not all the creatures he illustrated were true insects.
For example, woodlice may look like insects, but they’re crustaceans and are related to crabs and lobsters.
The writing on this insect illustration appears to be some religious Latin quote and has nothing to do with identifying the spiders in the picture as I first thought.
(However, my Latin is practically non-existent so I can’t be sure).
Spiders have been included in this book of insect art and prints. However, both spiders and insects are invertebrates, but spiders are not insects.
All Insects have three body parts: the head, the thorax with wings and six legs, and the abdomen. Spiders are Arachnids with two body parts: the cephalothorax (head + thorax) with eight legs, and the abdomen.
Beetles are distinguished from other insects in that their front pair of wings are hardened into wing cases, elytra.
Beetles are from the largest family of insects, Coleoptera, with about 400,000 species. This is about 40% of all known insects and 25% of all known animal life forms. And even more new species are discovered frequently.
Mantis all have forelegs that are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey; their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis.
These insects look like locusts to me which are a type of grasshopper.
Grasshoppers have had a long relationship with humans. Swarms of locusts can have devastating effects and cause famine; even in smaller numbers, the insects can be serious pests.
They are used as food in countries such as Mexico and Indonesia and are commercially farmed for food and protein supplements.
Grasshoppers feature in art, symbolism and literature. They were a feature in some of the Dutch Masters’s still lifes inspired by these insect paintings of Joris Hoefnagel.
The detail on this large dragonfly illustrations is just amazing.
Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world. They are believed to kill over a million people every year through their transmission of deadly diseases.
Wasps and bees are both members of the Hymenoptera order of insects. However, their bodies are different; bees are hairy, while wasps usually have smooth and shiny skin.
Wasps are narrow-waisted, have four wings and may be brightly coloured, with black and yellow patterns; unlike bees, which can sting only once, wasps can sting multiple times.
Ladybirds (ladybugs) after butterflies must be one of the most popular insects.
They are not just because they are pretty but because the bugs are considered a gardener’s friend. Most ladybird species prey on herbivorous agricultural pests such as aphids.
I hope you enjoyed this carefully curated collection of amazingly detailed antique insect illustrations as much as I did. You can find more vintage insect prints on Pillarboxblue. These include the stunning insect and plants of Maria Sibylla Merian prints and Jan Brandes’s vintage nature illustrations.
More vibrant insect illustrations are the art nouveau instects of E. A. Seguy.
Other natural history collections you might also enjoy are the fabulous natural history posters of Adolphe Millot. Also, the collection of vintage animal prints, and all the various collections of vintage bird prints.
I used some of these vintage insect images with this nature Inspired decoupaged paper mache bowl.
There is a holly illustration with an insect here.
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