Wednesday, November 4, 2009


The beautiful metallic wood boring beetles of the family Buprestidae are among my favorite insects. Their iridescent colors come not from pigments but from minute grooves in the surface of the cuticle which, like a diffraction grating or pool of oil on the surface of water, breaks up the light into its component parts. As a result, they don't fade with time. Jan Fabre created an amazing metallic green ceiling in the Royal Palace in Brussels composed of a million elytra from these beetles. It is titled Heaven of Delight and even viewing it in photographs is thrilling.

The species in the drawing belong to the genus Chrysochroa. They are from Thailand and should feel at home as they are sitting on a piece of Thai marbled paper.

The shell in the center of the second drawing has been made into a charming container with hinges and a clasp. The background is a piece of Italian paper used in bookbinding, from the estate of Francis Robinson, an all-encompassing curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a man of many interests and talents and a prodigious collector of books and everything else. The objects that have spilled around the shell are hyacinth beans, castor beans, yellow Steuben beans, pinto beans, calypso beans and antique clay marbles.

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