Elite Elytra

A famous Victorian dress worn by Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth is being restored to its original splendor. Part of that splendor involved the replacement and repair of over 1,000 buprestid jewel beetle elytra.

. Ellen Terry Dress

Check out the history of its creation here.  John Singer Sargent painted a portrait of Terry in the dress. It is one of my favorite Sargent paintings, but now I love it all the more now that I know she is covered in beetle wings!

Lady Macbeth, by John Singer Sargent, 1889

The use of beetles in decoration is not in itself a new practice.  Beetle wing covers, or elytra, are durable and iridescent, and can be easily harvested from forests, provided that there are forests to harvest them from.  One of the common ways to promote forest conservatorship is to purchase insects directly from indigenous peoples for collectors, jewelers, and researchers.  An in-depth article on beetle wings in art history can be found here.

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