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Half height banner for Maria Merian exhibition, showing a butterfly
This exhibition is in the past. View our current exhibitions.


Maria Sibylla Merian and her daughter Dorothea set sail for Suriname in June 1699. The voyage normally took around two months, and on arrival they took a house in the capital, Paramaribo. From here, Merian began her work, heading out into the surrounding forests with local guides in search of caterpillars to rear and study. Her first recorded observation took place in October 1699, and she continued her research until she was forced to return home due to ill health in June 1701.

Merian’s primary reason for visiting Suriname was to study insect metamorphosis, but she was also interested in the plants and animals she saw. She was critical of the concentration of European settlers on sugar production and, considered how other natural products from Suriname could be cultivated and used.

The watercolours of Suriname on display in this section are luxury versions of the plates from the Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, which Merian published in 1705.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.