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

The Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium

On her return to Amsterdam in 1701, Merian set about publishing the results of her Suriname research. Her book, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname) was published in Latin and Dutch in 1705. The book included 60 large plates, each with an accompanying description. Merian etched the designs onto the plates herself then passed them to professional printmakers to be engraved for publication. 

Purchasers could buy the Metamorphosis with coloured or uncoloured plates. Merian also issued a small number of copies with counterproof illustrations. For these, a print with the ink still wet was pressed against another sheet, which was left with a faint impression of the image. These images were then hand coloured. This ‘counterproof’ was in reverse orientation to the print and the same orientation as the original watercolour. The counterproof volumes sold for a higher price than the ordinary coloured impressions.

The worksin this section are luxury versions of the illustrations from the Metamorphosis. To make these versions, Merian took partial impressions of the Metamorphosis prints which she worked up by hand to make unique works of art. Merian made at least two sets of these luxury Suriname illustrations in 1702–3, probably to raise money for the publication of the Metamorphosis. The other known set is in the British Museum.

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.