The subject is painted seated at a desk or laboratory bench. Hopkins wears a light yellow or cream suit with blue shirt, green tie and a darker green waistcoat. There are two papers in front of the scientist, on a blue blotter. One shows the wavelengths of the absorption band seen by a spectroscope in light which has passed through a solution. Hopkins’ hand rests by a pencil on a pad headed ‘Lepidoporphyrin’, a term coined by him for the pigment found in butterfly wings and the subject of his first paper Royal Society-published paper. ('The pigments of the pieridae: a contribution to the study of excretory substances which function in ornament', in 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B', vol.186 (1895), pp.661–682). The colour of Hopkins’ jacket may be an in-joke therefore: his paper discussed the yellow of the English Brimstone butterfly. The test tubes show some of these butterfly pigments. To the sitter’s left is a Soxhlet extraction apparatus on an electrically heated water bath.
Where to see this painting?
The Royal Society
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