Talk about a Wunderkammer. An amazing collection of butterflies assembled by brothers Walter and Charles Rothschild and donated to England's Harrow school are being auctioned off at a sale at Bonhams in May. Numbering in the thousands, the winged critters had been stashed away in a room used by the Harrow's IT department where few visited. Walter Rothschild had a severe addiction to collecting to the point where he almost ruined himself financially, but he was able to found London's Natural History Museum with his vast holdings as a result. Mark Brown summarized parts of a recent article by filmmaker Hannah Rothschild about her great-great uncle Walter that she wrote for the Bonhams quarterly:
'You are looking at the greatly magnified reproductive organ of a butterfly,' she would tell princes and statesmen with glee."
Even though I feel sorry for all the poor dead butterflies in the Rothschild collection, it's also impossible not to marvel at the sheer variety of their iridescent and unusually-shaped wings that were gathered from around the world and pinned so carefully in place. Here's hoping the whole lot stays together and ideally ends up in a museum.