Guest post by Daniel Milford Cottam:

The Natural History Museum, our neighbours across the road, have opened their Sensational Butterflies exhibition – an outdoor attraction packed with live butterflies. As I sit here at my desk, I see the NHM flag flying above the roof, fluttering in a brisk wind, and it struck me that we have our own sensational butterflies here, too, captured in drawings and paintings and prints. They may not be live, breathing specimens, but I think they’re none the less fascinating for that. Plus, it looks like Spring has finally sprung, and what could be more spring-like than a selection of the butterflies found in our stores?

Illuminated letter A from a manuscript, c.1520

Illuminated letter A from a manuscript. South Netherlands, c.1520.


Le Moyne. Snowdrops with a Lady Butterfly

Nicholas Le Moyne. ‘Snowdrops with a Lady Butterfly’. French, c.1575.


Daphne Mezereum with butterfly

Georg Dionysus Ehret. ‘Daphne Mezereum with Butterfly’. Watercolour. British, c.1760s.


The Rev. Alexander Dyce. Nine Butterflies. Watercolour. British, c.1850s.

DYCE.978. Bequeathed by Alexander Dyce

Berlin woolwork butterfly

Hertz and Wegener. Design for a Berlin woolwork embroidery. German, c.1860s. Engraving with watercolour.

E.5410-1960.  Given by Mrs. H. G. Paglia.

Richard Doyle. “The Fairy Queen Takes an Airy Drive in a Light Carriage”. British, c.1870. Hand-coloured etching.


Jules Helleu, probably for Charles Frederick Worth. Fancy dress costume. French, mid-1860s. Watercolour and pencil.

E.22058-1957. Given by the House of Worth.

Goodall & Co. Theatre programme. British, c.1890-1910. Chromolithograph.

E.2637-1962. Given by Mr. M. Insley.

Charles Voysey. Design for a textile or wallpaper. London, 1918. Watercolour and pencil.


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