Maltese Cross, Mussel, and Ladybird

Object Details


Maltese Cross, Mussel, and Ladybird


Joris Hoefnagel (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 - 1600)
and Georg Bocskay (Hungarian, died 1575)


Flemish and Hungarian


Vienna, Austria, Europe (Place created)


1561 - 1562; illumination added 1591 - 1596


Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment


Leaf: 16.6 × 12.4 cm (6 9/16 × 4 7/8 in.)

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On this page, illuminator Joris Hoefnagel composed his image in response to the design of calligrapher Georg Bocskay's words. Hoefnagel echoed the curling lines of Bocskay's script with the petals of the flower known as a Maltese cross. Hoefnagel's most audacious response to Bocskay appears in the center of the page. To preserve Bocskay's calligraphic flourish, Hoefnagel painted the flower so as to suggest that the stem pierced the page. The illuminator, who can create an illusion of three-dimensionality, asserted the virtuosity of his art in contrast to that of the calligrapher, whose lines never disturb the two-dimensionality of the page.

Hoefnagel painted his objects with a microscopic detail that invites the viewer to look closely at these rare and exotic items, but his illustrations were not always strictly accurate. The small ladybird insect here, for example, is represented with eight legs rather than six.

Related Works
Prag um 1600: Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Kaiser Rudolfs II (June 10, 1988 to February 26, 1989)
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), November 24, 1988 to February 26, 1989
Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting (October 13, 2002 to March 2, 2003)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), October 13, 2002 to March 2, 2003
Education Resources

Education Resource




Flora and Fauna as Figures of Speech

Students create create a work of art that illustrates a figurative saying with a drawing of flora and/or fauna, and text written in ornate script.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Three/Five-Part Lesson