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Between Emblematics And The 'Argument From Design': The Representation Of Insects In The Dutch Republic

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Chapter Summary

On paintings, engravings, in emblem books and in the massive natural histories of the sixteenth century, insects were wrapped up in an amazing world of textual references and hidden meanings. Insects were represented as a means to learn moral and religious virtues. In the course of the seventeenth century, observers of insects in the Dutch Republic broadened their scope. From the 1640's on, other insects than the well known corpus were studied and even depicted, including wasps, dung flies and beetles. Jan Swammerdam had an open eye for every kind of insect, and brought the microscopic study of insect anatomy on a level which was not surpassed until the nineteenth century. Swammerdam would become the key figure in the whole process of transformation of the moral significance of insects and, more generally, of the increasing popularity of the argument from design" in early modern intellectual culture.

Keywords: design of insects; Dutch Republic; emblematics; Jan Swammerdam



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