Introducing Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 - 1717)

Maria Sibylla Merian is considered to be one of the greatest botanical artist. Check the dates in the title...a woman artist, considered exceptional in her lifetime is a very big deal.  She was encouraged to pursue art by her stepfather! There is a great deal of information out there about her so I won't go into detail. However, I urge you to read up on her Maria was way ahead of her time in many ways. She married, had two daughters, divorced and eventually moved to a commune that practiced celibacy raised her daughters. All the while she taught, wrote books, published 3 collections of engravings of her work. Then in 1699 when she was 52 the government of Amsterdam funded an extensive trip for Maria and her daughter to go to Suriname in order paint the flora and fauna. Two years later she returned to Amsterdam and published a collection of engravings of the work she did there. Here's how I came to know about Maria...


Many years ago I took a great trip to Holland at tulip time. I was with a tour and one day we had a choice to explore on our own or go see a diamond place. I did some research and found out Rembrandt's house was very near the diamond place. I had to see Rembrandt's house and studio diamonds didn't interest me at all. It was a major thrill to see Rembrandt's home and studio, where he painted, slept, cooked his meals or more likely someone cooked for him. Then I went to the museum attached to his house to see the exhibit of Maria Sibylla Merian's work - I had never heard of her. I'm not one for reading wall text, I headed straight to the images and thought I was looking at contemporary work! All the paintings were watercolors on velum the colors were bright, detail was crisp and fantastic. At one point a label caught my could not be true...the work was all from the late 1600's into 1700's! It looked like it was done recently and how could watercolor hold up like that for 300+ years!  Now I zoomed over to the wall label. After seeing the exhibit I needed to learn more about her and I did, all of it amazing for a woman 300 years ago. I bought a book about her life and highly recommend it "Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis" by Kim Todd.  

Above and below are some of the paintings I saw in the exhibit. I hope you get to see them in person one day, they are exceptional.

1700 Merian Insects of Surinam.jpg