Manolo for the Home is one of the younger blogs in the Manolosphere — did I just write that? — so I don’t get nearly as many reader e-mails with leads on cool stuff to feature as I do over at Manolo for the Brides. A recent communiqué from Sterlingspider brought this to mind, so before I tell you what she wrote me about I wanted to remind you that I want your tips! Bring ‘em on!
So what was the lovely Sterlingspider so excited about? Sternocera aequisignata. That’s right, a beetle. But not just any beetle! This beetle, eaten in Thailand, happens to have a exquisite wing case that is as durable as it is beautiful and has attracted the notice of artists and craftspeople, particularly contemporary Belgian artist Jan Fabre. In 2003, Fabre used the used the glowing beetle carapaces to create an awe inspiring mosaic that covers the vault ceiling and chandelier of the Hall of Mirrors in the Royal Palace in Brussels.
Called Heaven of Delight, a nod to Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, the ethereal green ceiling was made from 1.6 million beetle shells, glued by hand to the vault, niches, and formerly gold chandelier. As you might imagine, Fabre didn’t work alone, but instead employed 30 assistants who worked with him full-time for four months to complete. One glance at the detail tells you why…
I can’t imagine that I’d guess what the ceiling and chandelier are made from; most likely I’d wager it was something like green opal. But Fabre knew what he was doing when he chose his unusual medium. As he told the New York Times:
He is convinced that this skin will last far longer than paint: ”The wing cases of the jewel beetles are made of chitin, one of the hardest, most imperishable materials we know. They consist of wafer-thin platelets that capture, reflect and transform light. Oil paint fades; the carapace will keep its original colors.”
As an aside, Fabre is no stranger to using materials sourced from animals. In the course of his work, he has covered columns in marbled ham, as well as bones and other sorts of beetles before settling on the sternocera aequisignata for this very large work.
Curious about sternocera aequisignata? Here’s the little edible jewel up close.