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Butterflies

19th century
Nam Kye-woo, Korean, 1811 - 1888
A high-ranking official in the Joseon court, Nam Kye-woo was also an amateur painter renowned for his depictions of butterflies, which were usually rendered only by professional or court painters due to the skills required. Nam’s extraordinary passion for butterflies earned him the nickname of Nam Na-bi, meaning Butterfly Nam. The artist himself bred butterflies, and his vast collection, both living and dried, enabled him to render the creatures with amazing detail. The realism of Nam’s butterflies demonstrates the superior skills and rare talent that distinguished him from other literati painters. Symbolizing the love and oneness of a married couple, butterflies were a popular motif for decorations in the women’s quarter of Korean homes. ...

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