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Die Metamorphose der Bilder

Die Verwandlung der Insekten und ihre Darstellung vom Ende des 17. bis zum Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts

The paper discusses the history of research into the problem of insect metamorphosis from the middle of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In particular, the work of three central figures is discussed: Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680), Pierre Lyonet (1706-1789) and Johann Moritz David Herold (1790-1862). It is argued that an understanding of the history of the problem of metamorphosis requires a careful analysis of its pictorial dimension. For Swammerdam, the central aim was a visualisation of the mechanical process by which, as he assumed, the butterfly is enfolding out of the larva. Lyonet’s aim was a schematic representation of the structure of the organs, layer by layer, in order to understand the inner changes that the organs are undergoing throughout metamorphosis. Herold, working in the context of epigenetic embryology, took a very different strategy: the developmental series became the central pictorial means by which development as a gradual process of transformation was depicted.

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Correspondence to Janina Wellmann.

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Picture Metamorphosis. The Transformation of Insects from the End of the Seventeenth to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century

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Wellmann, J. Die Metamorphose der Bilder. N.T.M. 16, 183–211 (2008).

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  • insect metamorphosis
  • entmology
  • visual representation
  • 17th–19th century
  • developmental biology


  • Metamorphose
  • Entomologie
  • bildliche Darstellung
  • 17.-19. Jahrhundert
  • Entwicklungsbiologie