‘Nūr Jahān’, defined by complex mosaic-like arrangements and a structural composition, is named after the multi-skilled de-facto empress of the Mughal Empire. In 1611 Nūr Jahān (1577-1645) became Emperor Jahāngīr’s 20th wife, but not officially his empress. Nonetheless, she exerted her influence on the empire, minting coins in her name and issuing royal decrees. A great diplomat, a skilled hunter and a successful advisor, Nūr Jahān was also a talented architect – her designs for her parent’s tomb in Agra are believed to have inspired the Taj Mahal.

In ‘Nūr Jahān’, single or paired wings in various sizes and striking hues of red and black are arranged into perfectly symmetrical patterns. The wings emanate out from the centre vertically, horizontally and diagonally to create entrancing kaleidoscope-like patterns. The focal square composition appears to enshrine the central pair of wings, with the surrounding arrangements of wings seemingly receding and therefore directing the eye to its centre. This intricate, tectonic organisation recalls the architectural efforts of Nūr Jahān and the glorious mosaic tiles that adorn the Agra tomb.

The arrangement of ‘Nūr Jahān’ is in a constant state of transformation – new passages of patterns of extraordinary wings are revealed the longer it is studied and the more the viewer changes their position before it. Such is true of the large black and red pairs of wings that encircle the composition at its outer edge, alternately arranged to create an uneven frame. In doing so, Hirst infuses into this orderly composition a sense of vitality, that these butterflies are captured in a moment of variously directional flight.



Publication Year



Laminated Giclee print on aluminium composite, screen printed with glitter


100 x 100 cm

Edition Size



Signed and numbered on label


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