Study of a Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)
Oil on vellum., H. 0.184 mm; W. 0.143 mm
Cornelis van Spaendonck was born in the Dutch town of Tilburg. After a first apprenticeship with Guillaume-Jacques Herreyns (1743-1827) in Antwerp, he joined his elder brother, still-life painter Gérard van Spaendonck, in Paris. He became member of the French Royal Academy only in 1789 and from then on exhibited in the Salons until 1833. Van Spaendonck was director of the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory from 1785 to 1800 and kept working there as a designer and artist until 1808.
From the 15th to the 19th centuries, butterflies have been present in European painting, particularly in still-life paintings of the 17th century. Meticulously painted, they are often identifiable. The one depicted here, the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), is a well-known colourful butterfly. It is easily recognizable by its striking dark brown, red and black wing pattern. Its wingspread is between 55 and 64 mm.