Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Meticulously painted insects, flowers and berries are laid out on a plain creamy white surface without any overlap. Each specimen is carefully observed and identifiable. All of this might give us the idea that we are looking at a scientific illustration, but these insects appear very much alive: the seemingly casual arrangement, the light effects and the shadows cast give the objects a remarkably lifelike appearance.

The black veined white butterfly balances on the leaf on a common hawthorn; a caterpillar and an earwig crawl along its woody sprig. A common blue butterfly sits on a different leaf, while another rests on one of the juicy red berries. Other insects – a hornet, a yellow pied hoverfly, a garden tiger moth, two more earwigs, a dung beetle and a fire bug – are arranged in rows at the top and bottom of the panel, contrasting with the more natural looking arrangement of the insects and plants in the middle.

The National Gallery, London



Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not




oil on wood


H 11.8 x W 14.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from the collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, 2017

Work type


Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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