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Linné on line arrow The History of Ideas arrow What did Linnaeus look like? arrow Caricatures of Linnaeus

Caricatures of Linnaeus

In the early 20th century, Linnaeus had come to be so elevated and the celebrations were so numerous that many people simply got fed up. One columnist wrote that there were three things he was rather tired of: “the Merry Widow, Mr. Linnaeus, and Children’s Day.” People even dared to make fun of the great naturalist. The first caricatures began to appear.

Another thing is that there are a few old portraits that make Linnaeus look strange indeed. This is because very few portraits were based on Linnaeus himself. As mentioned, most portraits are copies or copies of copies.

We actually find examples of people making fun of the great naturalist in literature as early as the 19th century. In one of his tales for children, the author Zacharias Topelius joked about Linnaeus’ sometimes simple way of describing birds.

Drawing by B. Palme in Söndags-Nisse 1907. Banners of gratitude from postcard companies, plaster of Paris sculptors, the daily press, and florists.

Linnaeus caricature. Albert Engström Strix 1907. ”Innocue vivito numen adest” is Linnaeus’ motto, meaning “Live unimpeachably—God is present.” Linnaeus’ wrinkles are placed randomly.

The young main character in the tale, who regards himself as knowledgeable about the Linnaean system and is an avid friend of nature, was out on an exciting excursion on the outskirts of his hometown. Suddenly he saw a hawk dive and attack a squirrel. After considerable thumbing through his field book, he concluded that he had seen a nightingale battle a hippopotamus to the ground!

Bryk, Felix, Vandringar i naturens och kulturens riken (Stockholm, 1924)

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