Maria Sibylla Merian

German , 1647 - 1717

Maria Sibylla Merian was born in Frankfurt. Her father, Matthäus Merian the Elder, was a Swiss printmaker and publisher who died when she was still very young. Her mother later married Jacob Marell, a Flemish flower painter and one of Merin’s first teachers. From an early age Merian had an interest in drawing the animals and plants that surrounded her. In 1670, she moved to Nuremberg where she published her first illustrated books. Merian collected, raised and observed the living insects that she depicted in her work, rather than working from preserved specimens.

Merian left Nuremberg in 1685 and moved, with her mother, to the Dutch Province of West Friesland. After the death of her mother, she returned to Amsterdam and eight years later she embarked on a three-month trip to the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America. She had seen some dried specimens from the area and she wanted to study them in their natural habitat. She ended up spending the next two years studying and drawing the indigenous flora and fauna until she was forced to go home with a bout out malaria in 1705. The book that resulted from this trip, “Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam” established Merian’s international reputation. “Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam” was published posthumously.


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