‘The Empresses’ (H-10, 2022) marks a new iteration in Damien Hirst’s exploration of the butterfly as a symbol for freedom, religion, life and death. A series of five laminated Giclée prints on aluminium composite, screen printed with glitter, each print depicts images of red and black butterfly wings, arranged into a unique kaleidoscope-like pattern. The carefully positioned wings appear mobile and their patterns transform, each print seeming to capture the butterflies in moments of variously directional flight.

As well as a playful reference to Empress butterflies, the prints are named for five influential female rulers from history: Wu Zetian, Theodora, Nūr Jahān, Suiko and Taytu Betul. Their characters and stories are enhanced by the dominant red tone of the series, evoking life, war, power, anger, love, joy and luck.

Since the beginning of his career Hirst has interacted with the butterfly, one of his best-known motifs. Inspired by a chance encounter in his studio and the intricate patterns found on Victorian tea trays, in ‘The Empresses’ Hirst develops on the complex compositions invented in his ‘Kaleidoscope Paintings’ series (begun in 2001). In ‘The Empresses’, Hirst builds on his interest in the insect’s association with freedom, religion, life and death, linking butterflies to themes of glory, female power and the development of nations through the prints’ namesake female rulers.

‘The Empresses’ prints are symmetrical, asymmetrical and spiral patterns of meticulously organised butterflies that nonetheless exude hope and life – the butterflies look as if they are taking flight. This effect is in part aided by the material, laminated Giclée print on aluminium composite, which allows the butterfly wings to be rendered in minute detail, appearing lifelike and evoking an energetic quality with the light-reflecting property of their surfaces.

The awe-inspiring images of wings are framed by glitter, a vibrant and tactile material previously used by Hirst in his paintings and prints. This substance conveys a sense of joy, harking back to childhood play and moments of blissful abandon. In this way, the materiality of the prints work with the very images they depict to create the jocular sentiment that is characteristic of Hirst’s work: the vivacity and excitement of the glitter ground lends a sense of life to the immobile butterfly wings, held static in their defined positions within the intricate geometry of each print.

A limited edition series with sizes based on demand within a week-long application period, ‘The Empresses’ not only marked a new rendition of Hirst’s iconic butterfly motif but also the arrival of the HENI Editions NFT Deed, permitting the delay of receipt of the prints for up to three years. This digital intervention afforded the ultimate flexibility to collectors of ‘The Empresses’ and introduced a chrysalis-like stage in the prints’ lifecycles.


H10-1, H10-2, H10-3, H10-4, H10-5


100 x 100 cm each


Laminated Giclee print on aluminium composite, screen printed with glitter

Edition Size

H10-1 2853, H10-2 3041, H10-3 3315, H10-4 3310, H10-5 2814


Signed and numbered on the label

Publication Year



We estimate that the earliest completion date for delivery will be three weeks from the date of purchase. Timing is dependent on COVID-19 restrictions and delays.

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