By 2009, Damien Hirst had become an established artist, his works were being shown around the world, and the prices for them were skyrocketing. The 2004 ‘Pharmacy’ auction at Sotheby’s saw him acknowledged as one of the greatest living artists, as every single work was sold, exceeding projected prices.
This particular work, ‘The Souls on Jacob's Ladder Take Their Flight (Large Blue Gold Red Butterfly)’, 2009, touches Damien Hirst’s passion for subjects connected in some way with death: the ephemerality of butterflies is, to Hirst, a way of describing life.
Paraphrasing his words in his ‘Damien Hirst: Thoughts, Work, Life’ interview, it can be said that, for Hirst, adopting a subject connected with death, gore, and other negative concepts, is a way of underlining the great beauty of life. Butterflies are thus a spectacular instant, and not a prelude to death.
To Hirst, art’s main role in the world is as a substitute for major concepts such as love, life, and religion. ‘The Souls on Jacob's Ladder Take Their Flight (Large Blue Gold Red Butterfly)’ is a unique print, part of a series of 72 works. It is hand-coloured, and the whole printing process was geared towards the creation of an individual work.