Tray Painted With the Map
Gift for Joseph Stalin’s 70th birthday
by the working population of Brazil, 1949
The map on the face of the tray was made
of the wings of Morpho Menelaus butterflies.
Brazil has the most extensive butterfly population in the world.
Heavenly blue Morpho Menelaus butterflies, with their huge wings,
are used there for making decorations.
Butterflies Morpho Menelaus
Tray made of butterfly wings
is a traditional Brazilian
Catching butterflies is a tough job. But the local bush people use a known weakness
of the Morpho Menelaus butterflies: they love “strong” drinks!
Under the tree tops, by the river or a stream, the hunters place over-ripe fruits.
Under the scorching sun the fruit’s juice starts to ferment and hundreds of
winged sweet teeth come to the feast and after getting drunk, they fall asleep.
These insects are trapped in jewellery because
of the glitter in their wings, which are covered with
very specific scales, which finely reflect light.
This way their sky-blue wings become a part of the decoration of the lacquered
boxes and trays, which are very popular among the tourists to Rio-de-Janeiro.
During the post-war period, Soviet people were not used to overseas fineness.
For those who visited the exhibition of gifts to Stalin in 1949-1953, the exotic
tray looked like a surreal, unbelievable miracle.
In ancient Greek the word “Morho” means “beautiful.”
In fact, rarely any insect can match this “magnificent”
butterfly in glitter and unparalleled tints. The Swedish
scientist Carl Linnaeus, who gave this insect species its
scientific name in the mid-18th century, added some heroics
to this fluttering species. The majestic Morpho got the
second part of its name after Menelaus: the mythical ruler
of Sparta, a hero and Elena’s husband.
More so this butterfly is also one of the largest in the world!
The spread of its sky-blue silky wings, outlines with copper-brown
lining, reaches up to 12 centimetres!