A few years ago my aunt gave me the unusual framed picture below, which made me think a little of a watered-down, asexual version of an Aubrey Beardsley drawing, with its fine stark black lines and an enigmatic figure dancing in the moonlight in an eery wood.
Working as one of the team of painters, applying the reverse images to the glass that would cover and seal the final piece, be that a piece of jewellery or a painting as in this case, my aunt would have to use a steady hand to carry out this intricate work. Apparently the conditions were fairly archaic, and represented a significant fire-hazard, but there was a very good working atmosphere, with fellow painters coming from all different backgrounds, chatting together on their tables, which ran the length of the room.
The images that were recreated were often either 'exotic', with sunsets, landscapes & seaside horizons, or romantic and 'other-worldly'. I have to say I prefer the latter type....
These dreamy images remind me of the silhouette drawings and pop-up work that used to attract me when I was younger - the work of Jan Pienkowski.
Here is his 'Magic Castle'....but you can see much more on this link: http://www.janpienkowski.com/home.htm
The butterfly wing used for the art work was in general that of the South and Central American (male) butterfly; the Morpho. This huge beautiful creature flutters around the forest vegatation and humidity, and I had the great pleasure of seeing some flying in an Ecuadorian jungle some years ago. Truly magical!
While their irridescent blue mesmerises us, the Morpho's wings offer it camouflage against predators which find it difficult to distinguish from the blue sky above whilst the brown colouring of the underside resembles mere decayed folliage of the undergrowth.
In fact this blinding blue is not pigmentation, but an optical phenomenon wherein the miniscule scales, or 'lamellae', that make up the surface of the wing reflect light repeatedly at different levels. Apparently nanotechnology is currently perfecting techniques whereby the iridescence of the butterfly wing will be artiificially replicated in order to encrypt information on bank notes...
At the height of the craze for butterfly-wing art the commercial desire for the Morpho was such that to satisfy demand butterfly breeding schemes were set up in Europe... A cheap alternative was simply to use coloured foil as false wings for a background material (think Quality Street wrappers!), but without the irridescence of the Morpho the art lacks its bejewelled quality, the lustre and magic.