Maria Merian's Butterflies
Distributed for Royal Collection Trust
Merian's work in Suriname was published on her return to Amsterdam as the Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, or The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname. This groundbreaking book presented the insects that Merian had studied, with each insect life cycle shown on the correct host plant—an approach which has seen her described as “the first ecologist.” Merian’s illustrations are scientifically rigorous, but they are also beautiful, reflecting her training as an artist in the still-life tradition. Her approach to scientific illustration would be adopted by many of the natural historians who followed her.
Maria Merian’s Butterflies tells Merian’s story through her works in the Royal Collection. The core of these is a set of plates from the Metamorphosis, partially printed and partially drawn on vellum, which were acquired by George III as part of his extensive scientific library. Over three hundred years after they were made, these meticulous, brilliant works celebrate a woman whose art and whose story are enduringly popular.
Index of works