Full title: Ogilvie, B. 'The Pleasure of Describing: Art and Science in August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof's Monthly Insect Entertainment', in Thorsen, L.E., Rader, K.A. and Dodd, A. (eds.), Animals on Display: the Creaturely in Museums, Zoos, and Natural History (Pennsylvania University Press, 2013). pp. 77-100.


Ogilvie draws on the example of Rösel's Monthly Insect Entertainment to argue that, at least in the case of entomological investigation, no clear distinction can be drawn between eighteenth-century scientific and artistic endeavour.

Noting that 'Rösel's work both drew on and reinforced a view that human beings could learn much from insects while at the same time finding recreation in their display', he describes Rösel's work as an 'aestheticization of insects', as well as an attempt to define their nature: 'both the title of the Insect Entertainment and Rösel's continued self-identification as a "miniature painter" on its title suggest that even in Enlightened Germany, it would be premature to draw a sharp distinction between scientific and artistic modes of knowing and displaying insects.' (78)

Rösel, according to Ogilvie, believed (following contemporary natural theolog) that 'Naive enthusiasm for superficial beauty was a low form of pleasure; true understanding enhanced the overall aesthetic impact of displaying nature.' (92) Although he acknowledges that 'From one perspective, Rösel's Insect Entertainment can be read... as part of the history of science; in particular, the history of natural history and entomology before their professionalization', he warns that 'We should be wary... of imposing the modern notion of "science" on... [such] investigators of nature, or of reducing the early modern fascination with insects to a stage in the production of systematized knowledge.' (95)