Help us nail these 17th century bugs!

Help us nail these 17th century bugs!

The butterflies, moths, and other insects depicted by the brilliant 17th century Anglo-Czech artist Wenceslaus Hollar have buzzed back, and a number still need your identification. To quote the Beatles, ‘Help!’ 

Without further ado, let’s look at the remaining problem plates in Hollar’s series of 12 etchings, Muscarum Scarabeorum, which has been in our collection for 150 years. Most of the species have been identified by Te Papa’s bug buffs Dr Phil Sirvid and Dr Julia Kasper. But several are given ‘possible’ identifications as well as a few remaining ‘unknown’. Do tell us if you disagree (we won’t feel stung), and even better, help us fill our gaps!

Plate 8

Etchings of two moths and six insects
Wenceslaus Hollar, Muscarum scarabeorum … varie figure. Plate 8. Two moths and six insects, 1646. Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869. Te Papa (1869-0001-172)
  • Top row, left: Soldier beetle (family Cantharidae)
  • Top and bottom row, centre: Red underwing moth – Catocala nupta.
  • Top row, right: Cinnamon bug – Corizus hyoscami
  • Middle row, left: Unknown
  • Middle row, right: Possibly a gossamer-winged butterfly (family Lycaenidae). The spotty pattern looks more like artistic licence than an attempt at accuracy
  • Bottom row, left: Possibly a bee or wasp of some kind, with the wings of unusual shape and vein arrangement
  • Bottom row right: Seven-spot ladybird – Coccinella septempunctata

Plate 10

Etching of four butterflies
Wenceslaus Hollar, Muscarum scarabeorum … varie figure. Plate 10. Four butterflies, 1646. Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869. Te Papa (1869-0001-174)
  • Top row, left: Possibly the small tortoiseshell butterflyAglais urticae
  • Top and bottom row, right: Painted lady butterfly– Vanessa cardui
  • Bottom row, left: Possibly the speckled wood butterflyPararge aegeria

Plate 11

Etchings of butterflies and beatles
Wenceslaus Hollar, Muscarum scarabeorum … varie figure. Plate 11. Five butterflies, a moth and two beetles, 1646. Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869. Te Papa (1869-0001-175)
  • Top row left: Unknown beetle. Quoting his favourite pop group once more, Mark’s request is Please Please Me by identifying him/her!
  • Top row centre: Old world swallowtail butterfly – Papilio machaon
  • Top row right: A ladybird of some sort (family Coccinellidae)
  • Middle row left: Possibly a gossamer-wing butterfly (family Lycaenidae)
  • Middle row right: Unknown
  • Bottom row left: Possibly a gossamer-wing (family Lycaenidae) viewed from below
  • Bottom row middle: Scarlet tiger moth – Callimorpha dominula
  • Bottom row right: Possibly the comma butterflyPolygonia c-album

Plate 12

Etchings of five butterflies
Wenceslaus Hollar, Muscarum scarabeorum … varie figure. Plate 12. Five butterflies, 1646. Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869. Te Papa (1869-0001-176)

As two of the insects in this plate are almost certainly moths, it needs to be re-titled by art historians.

  • Top row, left: Possibly a tiger moth (subfamily Arctiinae), but if so it is depicted in the ‘at rest’ pose of a butterfly
  • Top row, right: Old world swallowtail – Papilio machaon
  • Middle row, right: Possibly a brush-footed butterfly (family Nymphalidae)
  • Bottom row, left: A species of fritillary – Argynnis sp
  • Bottom row, right: Possibly the garden tiger mothArctia caja. If so, there is some artistic licence as the wing shape and pattern are very unusual. The rear wing margin would not be undulating as shown here.

Honey, honey!

From the Beatles to Abba!  As promised, a jar of manuka honey, true nectar and a cure for all ailments, will find its way to the biggest and best set of correct answers. Sorry for bugging you, time to buzz off…

Read Part I >

A version of this blog was first published on 31 Aug 2017.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hi, plate 11 top right appears to have 8 legs, so may not be a ladybird. Sorry I can’t add anything positive.

  2. Avatar

    HI – plate 11 top row right appears to have 8 legs which would suggest not a ladybird.

  3. Avatar

    I think plate 11 top row left is probably Alexander beetle!
    otherwise I am a flutter…..

    1. Mark Stocker
      Author

      Thank you, Jane, this represent excellent invertebrate expertise!

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