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Maria Sibylla Merian was a German-born artist and pioneer of science.
I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating biography which includes many of Merian’s paintings and also writings from her journals and books. Merian was an interesting person, and her accomplishments were incredible feats.
Merian studied butterfly metamorphosis long before anyone else, and her scientifically accurate paintings were used by Carl Linnaeus to classify species he had never seen.
This book is beautifully-designed and showcases Merian’s paintings. Here is an example of her artwork:
This is actually a biography written for children, which I didn’t realize at first, but I still enjoyed it and learned a lot. It’s a great introduction to this woman and her work, which I knew nothing about. The book is well-written, fast-paced, and gives a good overview of Merian’s life and greatest accomplishments.
One thing I learned was how art was produced back in those days. I had no idea all the work that was involved in painting a picture. Paint had to be mixed by hand from any number of natural materials gathered from all over the world. It was difficult to get the paint to just the right shade of color and just the right consistency. These facts make me appreciate the art of that time even more.
• In June 1699 Maria Sibylla and her daughter Dorothea sailed from Holland to Surinam, in South America, to explore the jungles in search of exotic creatures no European had ever seen. They were the first people to journey to the Americas for purely scientific reasons, and they planned to study and paint pictures of every new animal and insect they found.
• The Caterpillar Book made Maria Sibylla one of the world’s first entomologists and ecologists, long before those words had been invented.
• Maria Sibylla was the first scientist to describe army ants and leaf-cutter ants.
• She remarked in her study book, after watching a disappointing brown moth emerge from the chrysalis of a colorful caterpillar, that often “the most beautiful and curious caterpillars are transformed into the simplest creatures and the simplest caterpillars into the most beautiful owl moths and diurnal butterflies.”
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Had you ever heard of Maria Sibylla Merian before? Let me know in the comments!