Maltese Cross, Mussel, and Ladybird
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Joris Hoefnagel, illuminator; Georg Bocskay, scribe
Flemish and Hungarian, illumination 1591-1596, script 1561-1562
Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment
6 9/16 x 4 7/8 in.
MS. 20, FOL. 37

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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.