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Insects in art

Insects have found uses in art, as in other aspects of culture, both symbolically and physically, from ancient times. Artforms include the direct usage of beetlewing (elytra) in paintings, textiles, and jewellery, as well as the representation of insects in fine arts such as paintings and sculpture. Insects have sometimes formed characteristic features of artforms, as in Art Nouveau jewellery.

Insect groups represented in art include bees, beetles, butterflies, orthopterans (crickets, locusts and grasshoppers) and dragonflies.

Societies across the world have from ancient to modern times used the shapes and colours of insects, and sometimes their actual bodies, in their art, whether jewellery or ceramics, body painting or textiles, paintings or sculptures. In North America, the Navajo make symbolic sandpaintings of blowflies, cicadas, corn bugs and dragonflies. The Hopi draw a variety of insects, but especially butterflies, on pottery. In other parts of the world, insects, most often honeybees, are shown in ancient rock art. Australian Aborigines often represented totemic insects in cave paintings and ritual objects. The art of cultures as widely separated as Ancient Greece, China and Japan includes bees, butterflies, crickets, cicadas and dragonflies.

A recurrent theme for ancient cultures in Europe and the Near East was the sacred image of a bee or human with insect features. Often referred to as the bee "goddess", these images were found in gems and stones. An onyx gem from Knossos (ancient Crete) dating to approximately 1500 BC illustrates a Bee goddess with bull horns above her head. In this instance, the figure is surrounded by dogs with wings, most likely representing Hecate and Artemis - gods of the underworld, similar to the Egyptian gods Akeu and Anubis.



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