Marisa Anne Bass

Nov 17, 2020

Insect Artifice

Nature and Art in the Dutch Revolt

Princeton University Press 2019

In Insect Artifice: Nature and Art in the Dutch Revolt (Princeton UP, 2019) Marissa Anne Bass explores the moment when the seismic forces of the Dutch Revolt wreaked havoc on the region’s creative and intellectual community, compelling its members to seek solace in intimate exchanges of art and knowledge. At the book’s center is a neglected treasure of the late Renaissance: the Four Elements manuscripts of Joris Hoefnagel (1542–1600), a learned Netherlandish merchant, miniaturist, and itinerant draftsman who turned to the study of nature in this era of political and spiritual upheaval. Presented here for the first time are more than eighty pages in color facsimile of Hoefnagel’s encyclopedic masterwork, which showcase both the splendor and eccentricity of its meticulously painted animals, insects, and botanical specimens.

Bass unfolds the circumstances that drove the creation of the Four Elements by delving into Hoefnagel’s writings and larger oeuvre, the works of his friends, and the rich world of classical learning and empirical inquiry in which he participated. She reveals how Hoefnagel and his colleagues engaged with natural philosophy as a means to reflect on their experiences of war and exile, and found refuge from the threats of iconoclasm and inquisition in the manuscript medium itself. This is a book about how destruction and violence can lead to cultural renewal, and about the transformation of Netherlandish identity on the eve of the Dutch Golden Age.

Akash Ondaatje is a Research Associate at Know History. He studied at McGill University (B.A. History) and Queen’s University (M.A. History), where he researched human-animal relations and transatlantic exchanges in eighteenth-century British culture through his thesis, Animal Ascension: Elevation and Debasement Through Human-Animal Associations in English Satire, 1700-1820 Contact: 17amo2@queensu.ca

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