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Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

Branch of an unidentified tree with Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterfly

1702-03

RCIN 921210

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Merian described how she ‘wandered far out into the wilderness’ to find this unidentified caterpillar, which she mistakenly thought became the Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho menelaus). She used silver paint to show the iridescence of the butterfly’s wings, which she told her readers looked ‘like polished silver overlaid with the loveliest ultramarine, green and purple…its beauty cannot possibly be rendered with the paint-brush.’