The artist and scientist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was born in Frankfurt, Germany, into a middle-class family of publishers and artists. With her meticulous depictions of insect metamorphosis, she raised the standards of natural history illustration and helped give birth to the field of entomology. At the age of fifty-two, Merian traveled with her younger daughter to Suriname, a Dutch territory in South America, to paint its exotic flora and fauna.
Many of the drawings produced by Merian in the South American jungle were later published as hand-colored counterproofs in her book Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname (1705), which brought her widespread fame. A copy of the second edition is held in the collections of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute.
Insects and Flowers, a delightful gift book that reproduces vivid color details of sixteen plates from the Getty's copy, is a vibrant encapsulation of Merian's book and features an engaging essay on Merian's life and work as well as an insect and plant identification guide. This book coincides with an exhibition of Merian's work on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from June 10 through August 31, 2008.
David Brafman is curator of rare books at the Getty Research Institute. Stephanie Schrader is assistant curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
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