Saturday, February 28, 2009

Corydalus maximiliana

…of his window. Glöcknürner describes the iridescent waxy finish of the Emperor Maximilian dobsonfly’s epicuticle as metallic in appearance: "wie Metallplatten… gebildet um den Körper." [See Appendix 3.] Pontolomucci (apparently working from a translation) takes Glöcknürner’s descriptive flourishes literally, rendering the insect as clad in then-contemporary armour in place of exoskeletal segments. The head’s encasement, for example, appears as a double-visored war helmet, with hinges, horizontal slits and decorative fluting. The tibiae also sport moulded greaves; the prothorax is a breastplate, and so on.

The resulting woodcut appears at first glance an exercise in anthropomorphic whimsy, perhaps meant as satire. But Pontolomucci (by all accounts) was completely earnest in his attempt to construct a precise visual correlation with the text. What impresses us today is his undeniable success at detailing the proportions of the bug and all its parts with near-perfect naturalism.

The Emperor Maximilian dobsonfly was strictly an inhabitant of the New World until 1573. Its main…

From: Jeldra Prambello, Insects in Art. Sydney: Digenitori Press, 1978: p. 224.