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Beautiful Vintage Butterfly Images Free To Print

Vintage butterfly images: Butterflies are a type of insect from the order Lepidoptera. Hence, butterfly collectors are called lepidopterists.  Butterflies are found in countries all over the world except for the coldest ones.  However, they are more abundant in the tropics and South America.

I think everyone studies butterflies at some stage in their primary education.  The four-stage life cycle of the butterfly is a popular introduction to biology. 

I remember from my childhood the wonder of witnessing a beautiful adult butterfly emerging from its Chrysalis. Maria Sibylla Merian illustrates this metamorphosis of butterflies in the most beautiful way.

It’s the beauty of the butterfly that makes it probably the most popular insect.  For centuries, butterflies have been used for art and jewelry.  They have been, decoupaged, framed, or set in resin blocks. 

They are a major component of Art Nouveau animal designs, you should check out the amazing pochoir antique butterflies of Seguy.

Natural History Butterfly Images To Download

Most of the butterfly illustrations in this post, have been drawn from Victorian butterfly collections.

Butterfly collecting surprisingly is still legal (except for certain species). But it is not the popular hobby it once was.  I think that is for several reasons. We are a lot more ecologically conscious these days. It’s no longer ethical or environmentally friendly to collect butterflies.  Also, there are far fewer butterflies now than in the past.

Did you know that the English prime ministers Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill were once butterfly collectors?  At its height of popularity in the early 20th century, there was a whole industry around the pastime of butterfly collecting. From all the specialist journals and books, the equipment, the beautiful mahogany display cabinets, and even butterfly farms.

Now the only butterfly collectors are those field biologists collecting and identifying spices in the name of science.  Peter Marren wrote an interesting article about the demise of the hobby of butterfly collecting.

The modern acceptable way to collect butterflies is to photograph them. The Norwegian nature photographer Kjell Sandved devoted much of his career photographing the patterns and colours in butterfly wings.  From these photos, he compiled the Butterfly Alphabet showing the 26 letters in wing patterns of butterflies.

Here I’ve curated a collection of beautiful vinatage butterfly illustrations from the 19th century.

Butterfly posters

To download the vintage butterfly images just click on the highlighted title link and a higher resolution jpg will automatically download to your device.

There is a really cute tutorial on how to use these illustrations to create a unique butterfly Christmas ornament.

The Vintage Butterfly Illustrations

1. Madagascan Butterflies and Moths including Swallowtail 1854

This beautiful plate of moth and butterfly images is from the German publication “Abhandlungen der Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Gesellschaft” 1854. From Harvard University Library.

Butterfly illustrations

2. Butterfly Plate from the “Aid To The Identification Of Insects” -1880’s

A lovely collection of 5 butterflies from Charles Waterhouse’s ” Aid To The Identification Of Insects”. This is a beautiful book from the 1880’s full of fabulous insect illustrations from the Smithsonian Library.

Butterfly plate

3. Plate 1. of Butterflies from “Dictionnaire Universel d’Histoire naturelle

Not only are the butterflies on this plate beautiful, but there are some lovely lifecycle drawings around the edge. This is from the “Dictionnaire Universel d’Histoire Naturellele” by the French naturalist, Charles Orbigny 1849.

Butterfly plate 1.

4. Plate 2. of Butterflies from “Dictionnaire Universel d’Histoire Naturelle”

The second plate of butterfly images from Charles Orbigny’s book. Again with line drawings of each butterflies caterpillar state.

butterfly plate 2

5. Plate 5 of Butterflies from the “Dictionnaire Universel d’Histoire Naturellele”

The beautiful blue butterfly on this plate the Nymphalidae Morpho Adonis is named after mythological Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire.

Adonis butterfly.

6. Plate 18 “Dictionnaire Universel d’Histoire Naturelle”

I love the painting of the Large Emerald butterfly at the bottom of the plate.

Large Emerald butterfly

7. Butterfly Images From the “Edinburgh journal of natural history and of the physical sciences” 1835

This is a gorgeous collection of vintage butterfly images. I love the impressive Imperial Trojan butterfly in the middle of the plate.

Imperial Trojan butterfly 1835

8. Little known butterflies from Africa – 1916

These lovely vintage butterfly images are from The Annals and magazine of natural history; zoology, botany, and geology (1916).

Little known African butterflies

9. Papillons A – Adolphe Millot

32 beautiful vintage butterfly images in this first of 2 natural history posters. They were painted by Adolphe Millot for the “Nouveau Larousse illustré”. I’ve previously shared a collection of Millot’s Sea Life posters.

vintage butterfly images

10. Papillons B – Adolphe Millot

30 beautiful vintage butterfly images in this second of 2 natural history posters. They were painted by Adolphe Millot for the “Nouveau Larousse illustré”.

Natural History butterfly poster

Butterflies are insects and there are more beautiful butterfly paintings free to download with the antique insect art of Joris Hoefnagel.

If you are a big fan of butterflies and moths then you might want to check out this fun faux moth taxidermy craft.

If you liked these vintage butterfly images you may want to check out some of these other natural history illustrations such as the collection of dragonfly drawings.

Natural History Posters of Adolphe Millot

Collection of Toucan Paintings

Vintage Parrot Paintings of Edward Lear

Leo & Linda Estrada

Thursday 30th of September 2021

Thank you so much, for these butterflies and parrots. They are gorgeous. The hard part is, deciding which to use first.


Friday 1st of October 2021

Thank you so much, I'm pleased you like them.

Butterfly Science Table – eagleandcompany

Thursday 10th of September 2020

[…] Vintage Butterfly Illustrations from Picture Box Blue. Not only are these prints gorgeous to look at, the boys liked finding all the butterfly’s listed in their encyclopedia & three part cards. You can snag here […]

Charlotte Koch

Thursday 2nd of May 2019

Thank you for sharing these wonderful pages. I downloaded the birds and the butterflies. It could keep me busy for a long time.


Saturday 4th of May 2019

Thank you, I'm glad you liked them.


Friday 26th of April 2019

This blog is amazing and I can't believe we can print photos for FREE. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Know that your work is appreciated.


Saturday 27th of April 2019

Thank you, Samantha. I’m really pleased you like the pictures there are a lot more to come.


Thursday 11th of April 2019

I have a fascination with butterflies, and I absolutely love butterfly art. These are amazing! I especially love the two posters at the end. Thanks for sharing at Sweet Inspiration!


Thursday 11th of April 2019

Thank you. Butterflies are a great inspiration for crafts and art. The colours and patterns are so pretty.