DETAIL IN FOCUS

This Butterfly Brooch Has A Hidden Secret

Designed by Wilhelm Lukas von Cranach, Crafted by Louis Werner (1899 - 1900)

At first glance, this elaborate Art Nouveau brooch looks like a butterfly. Its symmetrical wings are formed of colorful enamel, gold, and tiny diamonds, and its antennae from gold and rubies. The German artist Wilhelm Lukas von Cranach's choice of an insect motif reflects his strong interest in Art Nouveau philosophy which emphasized the application of natural, organic forms to everyday objects, ranging from women's jewelry to window frames.

OCTOPUS AND BUTTERFLY BROOCH by Wilhelm Lukas von Cranach, Crafted by Louis Werner, ca.1899 - 1900 (collection: Pforzheim Jewellery Museum)

But take a closer look here. Did you notice the octopus hiding in plain sight? Its eight tentacles emerge from a body ingeniously formed from an asymmetrical freshwater pearl. Along the lower edge of the brooch, the tentacles clasp a large ruby and pearl pendant.

What would have inspired this unusual hybrid of butterfly and octopus? It may be that Cranach, a naturalist as well as a designer, knew that the animals share an unusual behavior. Each is capable of changing its color and pattern if threatened by a predator. Their sudden change in appearance startles the predator just long enough to allow them to escape.

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