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When hunting for vintage home decor, there are some things I have a hard time passing by. One of the categories of vintage I hold dear to my heart are vintage and antique butterfly taxidermy artworks. As with most vintage decor, some pieces of butterfly taxidermy are better quality than others. The pressed butterfly items run the gamut from 1970s butterfly suncatchers to gorgeous Victorian trays. If they are inexpensive, I buy them all.
A while ago, I purchased a small tray or vase stand with purple butterflies, wildflowers, and milkweed at an estate sale. Upon picking up the work of art, I could immediately tell that it was older and of better quality than the pieces I had previously found. On the bottom of the tray was a small paper tag embedded in the glass that read “Alice Newcomb.”
Finding information on Alice Newcomb and her butterfly studio proved more difficult than I expected. She was a California artist whose gorgeous work was nearly lost to history. I did, however, dig up some information about Alice Newcomb and her taxidermy studio.
Alice Newcomb opened her art studio in 1917. Butterfly taxidermy was popular during the Victorian Era, but Newcomb’s pieces added specimens from California’s countryside to the art form. According to The Naturalists’ Directory from 1928, Alice Newcomb combined tropical butterflies with wildflowers from California’s foothill and desert regions. Newcomb’s flowers and butterflies sat on a background of silky milkweed and were carefully preserved to last forever.
I can attest to the quality and careful preservation of her work. The piece I own likely looks much the same as it did on the day Alice Newcomb created it!
Alice Newcomb’s works of art were popular with tourists. They inspired collectors nationwide to add pieces to their collections when they visited her studio in Pasadena, California. I found a black and white photograph of Alice Newcomb standing proudly behind the counter at her butterfly art studio. While the butterfly tray I found is quite small, many works of art in the photograph are large and ornate. How I would have loved to browse her shop!
Due to the age of her pieces, Alice Newcomb’s taxidermy pieces are quite rare. The few I have been able to find are quite expensive. If you want to explore or acquire her artwork, I suggest searching on Etsy and eBay. Check back regularly if you cannot find current pieces listed for sale.
Do you own a piece of Alice Newcomb’s butterfly taxidermy? Where did you find it? Tell me about it in the comment section below!
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