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The Empresses

Visually stunning and drenched in crimson red, Damien Hirst’s 2022 H10 The Empresses is a set of 5 butterfly compositions, released as a print and NFT series for HENI Editions. The prints are laminated giclée on aluminium composite with screen printed glitter, each named after an Empress of notable reign.

Damien Hirst H10 The Empresses for sale

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Meaning & Analysis

Published by HENI editions in 2022, Hirst’s H10 The Empresses are a set of 5 intricate butterfly compositions, available as physical works or as NFTs. The H-10 The Empresses collection was completed by Hirst in 2022 and published by HENI Editions. Each laminated giclée print in the collection is printed on aluminium composite and screen printed with glitter which gives the prints a dazzling finish.

The prints in this collection are all named after an Empress, as indicated by the collection’s title. The Empresses Hirst chooses are all linked to notable historical periods in which they exerted significant influence. Wu Zetian, for example, was an important figure in the consolidation of the Tang Dynasty and Empress Theodora brought about notable changes to Byzantine society. Other Empresses that Hirst uses as inspiration for the collection are Nūr Jahān the de-facto Empress of the Mughal Empire, Suiko, the first recorded empress of Japan and Taytu Betul, the Empress of Ethiopia in the 19th century.

10 Facts About Damien Hirst's H10 The Empresses

This print features butterflies displayed in an intricate pattern of spirals that Hirst makes captivates the viewer's attention and is infused with a dynamic sense of movement. The colours are crimson, yellow and black.

H10-5 Taytu Betul © Damien Hirst 2022

1. Damien Hirst’s H10 The Empresses was released as a print and NFT series for HENI Editions

The crimson red, orange and black butterfly compositions are offered in 5 different arrangements, and are done in laminated giclée on aluminium composite with screen printed glitter. Hirst's choice of a red hued palette aligns with the colour's historical significance and associations with power and royalty.

The print shows a captivating pattern composed of butterflies. The composition is dominated by a bold red which is accompanied by other red tones and black detailing. The butterflies are arranged in a hexagonal pattern.

H10-1 Wu Zetian © Damien Hirst 2022

2. The name 'Empresses' has a double-entendre, referencing both the butterfly species and the political position

This series represents a fresh phase in Hirst's study of the butterfly as a medium. To the artist, these creatures have come to represent freedom, spirituality, and the fleetingness of existence and mortality.

H10-3 Theodora

3. H10-3 Theodora is the only composition that is asymmetrical

While most works are arranged in a mandala-like pattern, Theodora's main butterfly is slightly off-centre within the composition. HENI editions has stated this arrangement creates "a formation reminiscent of the female gender symbol", an apparent nod to some of Theodora’s landmark feminist policies, such as the prohibition of the trafficking of girls and the amendment of Byzantine divorce laws to give women additional rights.

An antique mosaic of Empress Theodora in the Byzantine style. Theodora is shown with dark hair and eyes, fully dressed in jewellery including a pearl headpiece.

Image © CC BY-SA 4.0 and Petar Milošević / Mosaic of Empress Theodora in the Basilica of San Vitale

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