The butterflies seem to be plentiful this year, more so than usual, and I am really enjoying them.  They seem to be everywhere.  I looked on-line to see if anyone else had noticed the influx of these colorful winged beauties.  I didn’t come across information addressing the perceived abundance here in Virginia.  (Is it too much to hope that organic farming practices (such as those we use here at Ayrshire) may be having a positive impact??)  I did find an article in Country Living magazine from the UK stating that “Painted Lady” butterflies migrate from Europe to the UK in huge numbers every 10 years and 2019 is the lucky year.

I am not the only one butterfly watching—the cats enjoy them, too—watching them and attempting to catch them with wild gymnastic inspired leaps and twists in the air.  Thankfully, these encounters almost always end with the butterflies gracefully floating away.

Artists, too, enjoy capturing cats and butterflies on canvas, paper or in stone. In “Two Playful White Persian Cats and a Butterfly,” Hungarian artist Gabrielle Rainer-Istvanffy  highlights two fluffy white Persian cats and purple-winged butterfly by setting them against a forest background of dark green and gold.  Admired for her sensitive paintings incorporating this theme of domestic animals observing insects or birds, Gabrielle Rainer-Istvanffy is also remarkable talented in capturing the unique characteristics of the Persian cat breed through her sure renderings of their solid, round bodies, thick fluffy coats, and especially, through the realistic portrayals of their luminous eyes.


“Two Playful Persian Cats and a Butterfly,” Gabrielle Rainer-Istvánffy (Budapest, Hungary 1877-1964), 20C, oil on canvas, 23 x 30-3/4 inches.

Cats and butterflies are not only found in western art, but in eastern art as well, where they are imbued with not only beauty, but symbolic meaning.  In China, the Emperor Ming Huang is said to have been so inspired by a cat chasing a butterfly on the palace grounds that he wrote a poem symbolically linking the cat and butterfly motif to good wishes for a long life.  Thus, the cat and butterfly grouping became a rebus, as the word for cat and for octogenarian, mao, are homonyms and butterflies represent the number seventy.  Items such as this jade grouping of two cats clasping a butterfly between them were often given as gifts to wish the recipient a long life.

Wishing you butterfly mornings, and cat nap afternoons!

White Jade Group of Two Cats and A Butterfly, Chinese, 18th century, jade, 2 inches wide.

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