Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Archetypal Nature

Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) titlepage


detail a - Hoefnagel, 1592


detail c - Hoefnagel, 1592


Butterfly on Monkey


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592)


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) h


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) a

Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) e


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) c


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) d


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) j


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) f


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) g


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) i


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) k


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) l


Skull Monogramme


Archetypa studiaque patris - Joris Hoefnagel (1592) m


Georg (Jorus) Hoefnagel - Allegory of Winter (1589)



At first blush, Jacob Hoefnagel's book of fifty two engravings of insects, flowers and small animals from 1592 is anything but archetypal in its depiction of nature. The highly contrived arrangements are at times more like the scene of an infestation following a wedding banquet than an accurate portrayal of natural history specimens.

But for the era in which they were published, Hoefnagel's depictions were - for those plants and animals not simply imagined or embellished - an important step towards the recording of flora and fauna in proper perspective and as a fair representation of reality. The book proved influential for still life artists in the 17th century and indeed, Maria Sybilla Merian (from the other day) is thought to have 'borrowed' the stag beetle illustration seen above for one of her exceptional watercolour sketches.

This suite of Hoefnagel engravings was published by Christoph Weigel in Frankfurt and is based on the paintings of Jacob's father, Joris (Georg) Hoefnagel, a renowned Flemish manuscript illuminator. The final image above - 'Allegory of Winter' (1589) from Le Louvre - is one of the original Joris Hoefnagel works which gave rise to the engraved series.

The plates are accompanied by didactic biblical, classical and contemporary humanist epigrams and mottoes - connecting the series to the emblemata genre* - and there is said to be religious symbolism attached to the way in which some of the individual elements are organised in the illustrations.

It seems fairly obvious that at least some of the engraved plates above have been cut out and remounted. Some of the marginal handwriting noting species name and the like can be seen to disappear under the border of the illustrations at times.

The full title of the work is: 'Archetypa studiaque patris Georgii Hoefnagelii Jacobus F. genio duce ab ipso scalpta omnibus philomusis amice D. ac perbenigne communicat'
[roughly: Archetype and verses by G Hoefnagel, his father, are presented, engraved in copper under the guidance of his genius and communicated in friendship to all lovers of the Muses by his son Jacob]

7 comments:

Sandra Evertson said...

Thank you...I come here for inspiration!
Sandra Evertson

Txan said...

I like, this blog is a good place for have references...

LetsEatLunch said...

those are some sweet images.

Karla said...

"The highly contrived arrangements are at times more like the scene of an infestation following a wedding banquet..."

Er, what sort of weddings have you been frequenting of late? (Isn't there enough dancing to pound the banquet remains into oblivion deep in the cracks of the floorboards?)

peacay said...

I thought the presence of ornament, half-eaten food, flowers and critters made a post-wedding banquet a fairly obvious simile. You obviously attend weddings where the residua of the meal are stomped out of existence from table dancing.

holli zollinger said...

unique and unusual!

Karla said...

Well, maybe sometimes... (or so I like to imagine)

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