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Academic & Professional Books  Natural History  Art

Insect Artifice Nature and Art in the Dutch Revolt

Art / Photobook
By: Marisa Anne Bass(Author), Joris Hoefnagel(Illustrator)
312 pages, 192 colour illustrations
Insect Artifice
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  • Insect Artifice ISBN: 9780691177151 Hardback Mar 2019 Usually dispatched within 5 days
Price: £49.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

This pathbreaking and stunningly illustrated book recovers the intersections between natural history, politics, art, and philosophy in the late sixteenth-century Low Countries. Insect Artifice 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 its centre 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 colour facsimile of Hoefnagel's encyclopedic masterwork, which showcase both the splendour and eccentricity of its meticulously painted animals, insects, and botanical specimens.

Marisa Anne 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. Bass 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.

Customer Reviews


Marisa Anne Bass is associate professor of the history of art at Yale University. She is the author of Jan Gossart and the Invention of Netherlandish Antiquity (Princeton). She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Art / Photobook
By: Marisa Anne Bass(Author), Joris Hoefnagel(Illustrator)
312 pages, 192 colour illustrations
Media reviews

"An astonishing achievement. Bass turns a study of images and manuscripts into a new and exciting way to write a life. Insect Artifice is a superb and magical book – this is humanistic scholarship at its best."
– Anthony Grafton, author of Worlds Made by Words

"In this beautiful and eloquent book, Marisa Anne Bass sensitively rereads Hoefnagel's stunning nature studies in the light of his experience of war and exile. She unearths much new material about his intellectual circle and their search for refuge, peace, and virtue in turbulent times, a search that informed Hoefnagel's questing brush."
– Pamela H. Smith, author of The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution

"Bass tells the story of a great artist who, thrust by war and religious conflict into perpetual exile, sought a new grounding for experience in the minutest forms of animal life. With admirable erudition, she delivers a lesson in political ecology that is deeply relevant to us today. This is a book of uncommon learning, eloquence, and beauty."
– Joseph Leo Koerner, author of Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life

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