Having been depicted in art, embedded in resin and characterized in literature for many centuries, the butterfly has wide significance as a symbol of love, regeneration, fortune, freedom, spirituality and death, several of which are referenced in the etchings’ titles of the Butterfly series.
Hirst has said: "They’re testament to some of my most enduring interests: the relationship between science and art, natural history, mortality and our attempts to comprehend death."
In Victorian times, butterfly collecting was a mainstream pursuit, and Hirst was directly inspired by this rich heritage. However, butterflies are as well symbols of freedom, the embodiment of living life to the full. In many cultures they represent human souls; in medieval Ireland, white butterflies were thought to be dead children; white butterflies have also been discovered fluttering in the cells of recently executed Tibetan monks. Butterflies represent escape – and death (something of an obsession for Hirst), the ultimate release.