Butterflies and paintings in Teyler’s museum


This is a video from the USA, called Blue Morpho and Owl Butterfly, taken at the Gainesville Butterfly Rain Forest.

Teyler’s museum in Haarlem is the oldest museum of the Netherlands. It is also older than nearly all museums in other countries. Eg, when it opened to the public in 1784, the Louvre in Paris still was a palace of the king of France. See here how the British Museum was founded.

Teyler’s museum, being in principle a museum of all art and science, has a broad focus.

Many people tend to think about museums as places for old things. The paradox of Teyler’s is that it basically was founded as a place to show new developments in art, physics, mineralogy, palaeontology, natural history, etc. However, developments in the twentieth century like lack of funds left the museum unable to keep up with all developments in those many fields; also in changes in how better off museums exhibited their collections. Which means that today, Teyler’s is a sort of museum of museums, showing how museums used to exhibit, which cannot be seen at other museums anymore.

Though the museum also has drawings by artists from countries and times further away, like Michelangelo, the two halls for paintings reflect that the art section was originally started to show contemporary Dutch art. All the artists in those two halls are from the Netherlands; they are from the end of the eighteenth century, when the museum started, till the beginning of the twentieth century, when funds to buy new paintings ran out. Some of the painters exhibited are rather famous, like Isaac Israels and Anton Mauve.

The library of the museum has many interesting books on natural history, mainly from the nineteenth century. It is usually open only for specialized researchers now, as especially the many beautifully illustrated volumes are vulnerable. To give visitors an idea of the contents of the library, there are rotating small exhibitions.

Until 4 November, there is one such a small exhibition about books on butterflies from the library. Those books have colour illustrations. They are from about 1750-1850, from Jan Christiaan Sepp and others from the Netherlands, France, and England. They depicted butterflies not only from Europe, but also from other continents. This was about the time when besides collecting butterflies for the sake of collecting, also science on butterflies increased. Naming butterflies according to Linnaeus’ system progressed in those times.

Among the butterflies and moths depicted in these old volumes: the magpie moth; garden tiger moth; and the cream-spot tiger.

Also, rustic sphinx, from Surinam. Not from the most famous book about Surinamese butterflies, by Maria Sybila Merian (1647-1717), as that is from before the era of the exhibition.

And the dark green fritillary, which was rather widespread in the netherlands while depicted during the 18th century; but which today occurs only on Texel island and in the Veluwe region.

Finally, the Menelaus blue morpho butterfly from Venezuela.

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