Taken from Damien Hirst’s Cathedral series from 2007, Cathedral, Notre Dame is a screen print showing a symmetrical, kaleidoscopic pattern made up of many various butterfly wings. This intricate and mesmerising composition is depicted in blue, yellow, white, green and purple, forming a highly aesthetic image.
Evoking the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, Hirst’s Cathedral series is reminiscent of his many kaleidoscopic paintings from the 2000s, the most comparable being his Superstition series from 2006. This series of pointed arch shaped paintings mimic the windows of a cathedral, obscuring the hundreds of butterfly wings that constitute its meticulous pattern.
Cathedral, Notre Dame is indicative of Hirst’s desire to bring together themes of science, aesthetics and religion through the leitmotif of the butterfly. Recalling someone once saying to him: ‘Butterflies are beautiful, but it’s a shame they have disgusting hairy bodies in the middle,’ Hirst in works like this chose only to display the dazzling wings of the insect. The butterfly has been used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery represents resurrection. In bringing together the fragility of the butterfly wings with the monumentality of religious art, Hirst investigates seemingly conflicting ideas that are at the core of humanity.