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I had the plates engraved by the most renowned masters, and used the best paper in order to please both the connoisseurs of art and the amateur naturalists interested in insects and plants.

Maria Sibylla Merian

In 1699, the German entomologist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian set sail for Suriname, in South America. There she would produce a series of beautiful and scientifically accurate illustrations of the natural world which she encountered. These drawings, in which Merian aimed to explore the life-cycle of insects (then only partially understood), led to the publication of the Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, a luxury volume which brought the wonders of the wildlife of Suriname to Europe.

Maria Merian's Butterflies tells Merian’s story through her works in the Royal Collection. Over three-hundred years after they were made, these meticulous, brilliant works celebrate a woman whose art and whose story are enduringly popular.

Kate Heard is Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust. Her previous publications include High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson (2013) and she is Deputy Editor of the Journal of the History of Collections.