Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026087, Tue, 24 Mar 2015 00:18:01 -0300

[SIGHTING] Wings of Desire: From Bruegel to Nabokov and...
Wings of desire: how butterflies have captivated artists
15 Mar 2015, Patrick Barkham.

From Bruegel to Nabokov and "The Silence of the Lambs," butterflies have
flitted through our imaginations and into our culture. Patrick Barkham pins
up the choice specimens - and finds out why new film "The Duke of Burgundy"
is awash with them.

"Signifying sunshine, beauty and freedom, butterflies are ubiquitous in our
culture, ever-present on greeting cards and used to sell everything from
oven chips to SUVs. For artists, novelists and film-makers, however,
butterflies and moths have often taken on darker meanings. In John Fowles's
"The Collector," the protagonist (played by Terence Stamp in the film
adaptation) is a butterfly obsessive who decides to collect young women. In
"The Silence of the Lambs," a sinister-looking moth (actually the
death's-head hawkmoth) is a serial killer's signature. And in
-film-festival> The Duke of Burgundy, a new film by Peter Strickland, the
story of an S&M relationship is told through butterflies and moths. How have
these insects come to symbolise sexual deviancy?
Artists have been seeing the human spirit in lepidoptera for centuries. The
earliest-known depictions are of the eyed hawkmoth and the peacock butterfly
in Pyrenees cave paintings. According to Peter Marren, author of new book
ht-in-british-butterflies/9780224098656> Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of
Delight in British Butterflies, they appear on Minoan artefacts from Crete
around 4,000 years ago, but it was the ancient Greeks who really shaped
their use in culture, by explicitly linking them to the human soul. The
Greek word for a butterfly and a soul is the same: psyche.
[clip] In Hieronymus Bosch's best known work,
hts_by_Bosch_High_Resolution.jpg> The Garden of Earthly Delights, painted at
the start of the 16th century, there are two little devils with the wings of
the small tortoiseshell and the meadow brown. In 1562, Pieter Bruegel the
Elder gave his ringleader the wings of a swallowtail in
The Fall of the Rebel Angels. And Marren points out the long history of the
red admiral butterfly as a symbol of "evil": red represents danger in
nature, and the superstitious saw its blood-red wings as a sign of
foreboding when vast numbers of them appeared across Russia in 1881, when
Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. Some believe that the date "1881" can be
deciphered on the red admiral's hind wings.
troduction/378103/> Vladimir Nabokov, a brilliant lepidopterist as well as
author, used the red admiral to sinister effect in his novel Pale Fire.
[clip]Having an on-set entomologist helped deepen meanings in the film, and
Strickland was particularly struck by the rich, strange language of
lepidoptera. His lovers' safe word is pinastri, the scientific name for the
pine hawkmoth. "It sounded like 'be nasty'. I love the idea of words having
this incantatory quality - they become a kind of chant."
Other species are used very precisely in the film. The moth that Evelyn
holds at the end is an old lady; and, given the bondage theme, it seems
appropriate the true lover's knot moth should appear. Characters' names are
similarly chosen: Cynthia is the scientific name of the painted lady, while
Dr Viridana is named after the green oak moth (Tortix viridana).[clip]

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