Saturday, May 18, 2013

Madame Butterfly - Illustration series

         Based on Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, these illustrations capture a tragic love tale between a guileless Japanese young girl and an American sailor. Cio Cio San (pronounced closely as Butterfly in Japanese) is arranged to be married to a Naval officer, Pinkerton, who only marries her for convenience. Briefly after the wedding, Pinkerton ruthlessly leaves Japan, without reckoning Butterfly's sincere and unconditional love. Years pass as Butterfly still waits for him in hope and faithfulness, just to know Pinkerton has long forgotten her. After an unfortunate encounter with his new wife, Butterfly decides to take her own life. Pinkerton rushes in filled with regrets,
but he is too late.

Floating in the joyful breath of spring”
Acrylic and colour pencils, 12" x 12"
      This painting depicts the fifteen year old Cio Cio San, ecstatic for her arranged wedding with an American soldier. Butterfly, lights up the temple as she arrives with her alluring smile and an slender fragility. Her faithfulness to Pinkerton is also hinted in the Christian cross she is holding, an act of renouncing her ancestral Buddhist religion that symbolizes her unconditional love for Pinkerton.
I cannot tell you whether it's love or fancy.
All that I know is,
she, with her innocent charm has entranc'd me.
Almost transparently fragile and slender,
Dainty in stature, quaint little figure,
Seems to have stepped down
straight from a screen.
But from her background of varnish and lacquer,
Suddenly light as a feather she flutters,
And like a butterfly, hovers and settles,
With so much charm, such seductive graces,
That to rush after her a wild wish seized me
Tho' in the quest her frail wings should be broken.”

Lingering on this infatuated tenderness”
Acrylic and colour pencils, 12" x 12"
       On the wedding night, Butterfly guilelessly asked Pinkerton whether it's true that “If a butterfly is caught by a foreign man, he'll pierce its heart with a needle and then leave it to perish?” To her anguish, Pinkerton folds his arms around her, gently spoke: “May I tell you why? So that you may not escape. I have caught you. I hold you as you flutter...”  This illustrations henceforth captures the tenderness and romance pervading them that night, on backdrop of the falling night in Nagasaki.
Ah! Night of rapture!
Ah, lovely night!
Thy perfect calm is breathing love
near and far!”

She waits for the robins nesting"
Acrylic and colour pencils, 12" x 12"
       This last one is inspired from a commendable line from the second act, a deceptive promise made by Pinkerton before he departs, having no intention to return: “I'll return with roses, when the red-breasted robins are busy nesting”. Innocent and devoted as a crane, Butterfly waits and waits in utmost patience, everyday gazing at the memories, longing for a husband who has shamelessly forgotten her.

PS. I never thought I was into opera until my first time watching it live, performed by a Belarus theatrical group, which turns out to be a mind-blowing experience :)


  1. beautiful as always congratulations and nice weekend!!

  2. I love this opera. And your paintings are perfect. I can almost here the music while I look at them. Great work!!!

  3. such beautiful portrayals of this story.
    your details are mesmerizing and draw me in to the feelings of what happened. each painting is a sad joy to see.

  4. thanks everyone for your kind words :) especially Efi,I am so glad you're a fan of Mdame butterfly too xx

  5. Your paintings are beautiful! The mix of coloured pencil and acrylic works especially well for the flowing detail in the butterfly and flowers. Gorgeous!

  6. Your work is amazing! I am swept away by the way you have captured the romance and longing. You have truly captured the story's emotion!

  7. Your work is gorgeous! These illustrations are so emotionally charged. "She Waits for the Robin's Nesting" is my favorite, her heartbroken expression is so well done. You've definitely done the opera justice.