The Souls On Jacob’s Ladder 1 is an intaglio print from Damien Hirst’s The Souls On Jacob’s Ladder Take Their Flight series from 2007. The print shows a large yellow butterfly with its wings outspread, set against a black backdrop. Hirst’s use of the flattened, black backdrop creates a striking print that synthesises aesthetic and scientific modes of representation.
Fascinated by the symbolism that the butterfly holds across the globe, much of Hirst’s artistic oeuvre is dominated by the motif. Behind the intricate appearance of the beautifully rendered butterfly is a tragic set of meanings; their three-day life span reminding the viewer of the fleeting and fragile nature of life itself.
Hirst is notoriously ambivalent with his subject matter and brings themes of love and death into dialogue with one another. Partly explaining why he is so enthralled by butterflies, Hirst has said, “I love butterflies because when they are dead they look alive.” The appearance of life that the butterfly retains in death lies at the heart of Hirst’s aesthetic interests that are concerned with the distance between the beautiful image of the butterfly and the insect in real life.