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A spotlight on outstanding women artists and their works in the Royal Collection

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

Pomegranate and Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterfly 1702-03

RCIN 921162

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Maria Sibylla Merian travelled in 1699 with her younger daughter to Suriname in northern South America, to study the flora and fauna. The resulting natural history plates were published in Amsterdam in 1705, at her own expense. This volume was a

Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium ©

In the second half of the eighteenth century, George III acquired a group of sumptuous hand-coloured prints on vellum depicting the metamorphosis, or changing life cycles, of Surinamese insects for his scientific library. These plates were a luxury set of the illustrations of an influential publication on the subject, the fruit of first-hand research by the entomologist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian.

Merian, with her daughter, travelled to Suriname in South America in 1699 for the purposes of scientific research, which was remarkable. The intellectual rigour and artistic skill exhibited in the resulting publication and its illustrations were the zenith of a life devoted to the study of the science of insect metamorphosis. Merian dedicated her publication ‘to all lovers and investigators of nature’.