The but­ter­fly—up close and as a winged de­sign form.

Arts and Crafts Homes - - PORTFOLIO - —Pa­tri­cia Poore

NO MYS­TERY why but­ter­flies and moths are de­picted in the visual arts: what could be more beau­ti­ful than the bril­liant color and pleas­ing sym­me­try of the wings, or the play­ful free­dom of flight? Like ginkgo leaves, pop­pies, and drag­on­flies, but­ter­flies are popular in Ja­panese art. The An­glo–Ja­panese de­sign craze of the late Vic­to­rian era in­tro­duced styl­ized but­ter­flies in fab­ric and wall­pa­per de­signs, em­broi­dery, wood carv­ing, and metal cast­ing.

The mo­tif passed to the next gen­er­a­tion. But­ter­flies are common in Art Nou­veau de­sign. (The spread-wing shape even lends it­self to over­all com­po­si­tions, as with the man­tel­piece shown at left.) Dur­ing the Arts & Crafts pe­riod, the mo­tif was of­ten ab­stracted. Look for but­ter­flies alone or in com­bi­na­tion with flow­ers or vines, in repet­i­tive de­signs or pic­tured singly.

De­sign­ers choose the in­sect for its in­her­ent beauty, but there's sym­bol­ism, too, of course. The an­cient Greek word for “but­ter­fly” is akin to psy­che: soul or mind. Heart-shaped wings sug­gest love; the meta­mor­pho­sis from cater­pil­lar to but­ter­fly stands for trans­for­ma­tion, and to come out of the co­coon means re­birth. My child­hood friends and I would try to get a but­ter­fly to land on us, for good luck.

Aes­thetic ‘ But­ter­fly Frieze’ after Bruce J. Tal­bert, re­pro­duced by Ma­son & Wolf Wall­pa­per. ‘ Eu­ca­lyp­tus But­ter­fly’ fil­i­gree lan­tern from the Cob­ble­stone se­ries by Old Cal­i­for­nia Lan­tern Co. ‘ Monarch’ enam­eled cab­i­net knob, Not­ting Hill Dec­o­ra­tive...

Hand- em­broi­dered pil­low by Roy­croft Re­nais­sance ar­ti­san Natalie Richards, Paint By Threads. Hand­carved Art Nou­veau ‘ But­ter­fly’ fire­place sur­round in but­ter­nut with in­lay and mar­quetry by Wil­liam Doub Cus­tom Fur­ni­ture, Deer­field, N. H.

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