Microscopic works of art at Bonhams & Butterfields in December

Art that is virtually invisible to the naked eye – designed to be viewed under a microscope – comes to auction this winter at Bonhams & Butterfields’ Natural History auction in Los Angeles on Dec. 7-8, 2008.

Eight “micro mosaics” to be offered were artfully created by English scientist and artist H. Dalton in the middle to late 1800s for collectors of microscopic objects. These significant works represent interest in natural history and scientific inquiry by the burgeoning middle class of the Victorian era.

These works of art are composed of a unique medium – the scales of butterfly wings and the skeletons of diatoms (a single-celled marine plant), mounted on microscope slides. They would have been viewed in Victorian drawing rooms as after-dinner entertainment, showing off their stunning colors, artistic execution and novelty. Today, the works continue to captivate the eye.

Dalton pressed the natural materials onto a microscope slide, using no adhesives. The mosaics were then sealed in a cell comprising a glass disc on top and a colored lacquer cylinder on the sides. Intact works are rare, so these examples are remarkable after more than a century, still displaying breathtaking colors and the original flawless execution.

Dalton’s micro mosaics, highly sought after by collectors, have never before been offered at public auction.

An illustrated catalog for the auction will be available online at www.bonhams.com/us.

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