Ornithoptera Series

 

About the Butterflies

In my paintings, I use the Birdwing butterflies as a symbol of the many animal and plant species that are disappearing as a result of habitat destruction and other human interventions.

There are 11 species of Birdwing butterflies of the genera Ornithoptera and they are restricted to the New Guinea area. All are rare and some of the subspecies with very restricted distribution, on small islands for example, are extremely vulnerable.
These butterflies are among the largest in the world, the female O. Alexandra having a wingspan of 11 inches.

The birdwings are all believed to breed on the Aristolochia vines on which they are dependant for their survival.

Some of the most rare genera of birdwings sell for over $ 1000 a pair. Some Island colonies have been completely extirpated by unscrupulous collectors paying the islanders a few cents to gather the butterflies. These are then sold for high prices to other collectors. The main threat to these insects, though, is habitat destruction through logging by governments, companies and local people. Of course, Birdwing butterflies are just a few of the thousands of animal and plant species that are threatened with extinction as a result of the felling of the forests.

I try to render the butterflies in full scale and as accurately as possible.

Ornithoptera Aesacus

This is one of the least known of the Birdwings. It is found only on Obi Island, in the Indonesian Moluccas. Obi has been closed to outside travel for a great many years and few examples are in collections. Little is known of the numbers of this butterfly but it is assumed that the Aesacus is fairly secure, as no logging has been allowed on the island.
Robert Graves says that Aesacus was a son of Arisbe, the first wife of Priam, King of Troy. When Aesacus great love Asterope, the daughter of a river, died he tried repeatedly to kill himself by jumping into the sea from a high cliff. Finally the Gods took pity on him and turned him into a diving bird “thus allowing him to indulge his passion with greater decency”.

  • The males have a wingspan up to 14 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan up to 19 cm.

It is classified as indeterminate in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’.

O. aesacus Male & Female
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2002

Acrylic on birch ply & poplar

h 24” w 25.5”
61cm x 65cm

 

ORNITHOPTERA AESACUS

This is one of the least known of the Birdwings. It is found only on Obi Island, in the Indonesian Moluccas. Obi has been closed to outside travel for a great many years and few examples are in collections. Little is known of the numbers of this butterfly but it is assumed that the Aesacus is fairly secure, as no logging has been allowed on the island.
Robert Graves says that Aesacus was a son of Arisbe, the first wife of Priam, King of Troy. When Aesacus great love Asterope, the daughter of a river, died he tried repeatedly to kill himself by jumping into the sea from a high cliff. Finally the Gods took pity on him and turned him into a diving bird “thus allowing him to indulge his passion with greater decency”.

  • The males have a wingspan up to 14 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan up to 19 cm.

It is classified as indeterminate in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’