Beetles and Art

The ubiquitous insects have been a cultural inspiration internationally, frequently used as symbols and metaphors for human existence and experience. Their boundless forms and behaviors make them logical candidates for artistic expression, providing artists with novel media to translate the mood, message and effect of a work.
We shall survey how artists have used actual beetles in their work. From Dürer's painting showing a stag beetle to the traditional use of buprestid beetle elytra for adornment, beetles, with their accessible, varied forms and cultural significance, have served as art media throughout human history.

The topic is so wide that we will show hereafter only some elements in order to ilustrate the stamps.

The first apparition of beetles in art (but more in religion than in art) has been the sacred scarab used by Egyptians as pices of jewelry.

Ateuchus sacer

Wings most universally used as art media are those of beetles, and particularly of the metallic wood-boring beetles and scarabs.  People around the world have incorporated the elytra of beetles in traditional artwork, from Mexico, Central America, and the Amazon to the highlands of New Guinea, Northern Thailand, and India. Beetles have been harvested commercially for their elytra, once with a purported average of 1137 kg procured per rainy season in Myanmar. Elytra are chosen to adorn textiles and ornaments and were one of the signatures of Basohli School miniature paintings (1690-1730) in India. Even Lady Macbeth, in an Irving theatrical production of Macbeth, was portrayed in a green silk dress embellished with red and green beetle elytra, as depicted in Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent.


Beetle wings collages

Cinematographers, like the Brothers Quay and Wladislaw Starewicz, have animated dead insects in their films. Starewicz, an entomologist/filmmaker wired carcasses in Beautiful Lucanida or the Bloody Fight of the Horned and Whiskered, and The Fight of the Stag Beetles, as early as 1910, introducing Russia to stop-motion animation.

An section related to insect specimens as art medium lies with Jan Fabre, great-grandson of the great ethologist/entomologist Jean Henri Fabre.
An insect collector and expert himself, Fabre’s body of work is rife with insects and arachnids. As art media, the insects and arachnids are displayed unmodified on a two-dimensional substrate, in monumental composites, or as radically rearranged pieces. Beetles don a cephalic bottlecap, elytra capsules, a rostral quill, or prothoracic stamp handle (scarabs, with the exception of the quill-bearing brentid). 
Fabre’s most glorious insect-incorporated works are draped in a fabric of shimmering green, brown and black beetles. Gowns of wire mesh are graced with the siennas and umbers of lucanids and scarabs, or shrouded exclusively with metallic green buprestids, or flecked with chafers (Cetoniinae spp.). Hollow bee keepers’ robes sit brooding or stand forebodingly, clad with the above array of scarabs, lucanids, buprestids, and cerambycids. Fabre’s coleopteran carcasses shine with an iridescent reanimation.


Dress made of beetle wings

Realistic renderings of insects in art share a history harkening back at least to Albrecht Dürer’s Stag Beetle (1505).



Some students in art schools must create a project often showing stamps. Hereafter are some examples. We wish then could become official issues!!!