Rouwmantel, Nymphalis antiopa – Camberwell Beauty – Mourning Cloak – Rouwmantel – Trauermantel of koningsmantel (Nymphalis antiopa) by Paula Kuitenbrouwer, coloured pencils. This butterfly has a life-span of 11 to 12 months, one of the most extensive life-spans for any butterfly.
My new butterfly composition combines symbolism and realism. It reflects emotions and ideas, but also represent the natural world objectively and scientifically. Let me talk you through my composition.
I have chosen to draw a Mourning Cloak, not only because it is a beautiful butterfly, but also because of its fascinating name. Mourning Cloak’s dorsal wing surface resembles the traditional cloak worn by those in mourning, or the cloak that is draped over the casket of the deceased. However, this butterfly has more names: Camberwell Beauty, for one, and another is Harbinger of Spring. A harbinger is a forerunner or herald, in this case of spring.
Mourning Cloak butterflies have a life-span of 11 to 12 months, one of the most extensive life-spans for any butterfly. No wonder it announces spring and mourns the end of summer.
My two Mourning Cloak butterflies fly up, you might say from earth to heaven. They fly towards a beech shoot with one open seed pod. The upward motion of the butterflies seems like an ascent to heaven; the open nut cupule with the visible brown beech seed represents potential new life.
The beech shoots are deliberately composed in a cross shape. On the left side there are autumn leaves and fertile seed pods; this side is alive. It shows the cycle of life with seed pods, with the beech seed ready to fall and start an independent life. The opposite side of the cross is cut off, absent.
The cross itself symbolizes the conjunction of two lines. The horizontal line represents our life. It symbolizes our progress through life, which proceeds day to day, year to year, from birth to death. This line is interrupted – or crossed – by a vertical line, which indicates an upward direction. This line may refer to meditation, to our belief in God, to our transformation into spiritual beings, ascending to heaven after our life on earth is over.
My butterfly composition shows seasonal change and the cycle of life, in a realistic way. The autumn leaves and seed pods strongly suggest that, next year new life will start, again. This happens to the butterfly, too. A caterpillar dies off to become a cocoon; the cocoon dies off to become a butterfly. Everything lives on, although in another form.
The composition alludes to transformation and rebirth, to earth and heaven. It shows hope, or functions as a mindful and artistic reminder of impermanence. It is also a multi-religious condolence message, open to your symbolic or religious interpretation.
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