Happy Birthday, Maria Sibylla Merian!

Today, Google commemorated what would have been Maria Sibylla Merian’s 366th birthday with a Google Doodle. Merian, a seventeenth-century naturalist and artist, has been credited with making important contributions to the fields of botany and entomology.

Born in Frankfurt in 1647, Merian, the daughter of an engraver, was one of the few women of her time to be so deeply involved and successful in a scientific profession. In addition to being a pioneer in her field, she also broke new ground when she undertook a dangerous research expedition to South America with her daughter without a male companion, which was practically inconceivable at the time. Her talent as an illustrator is matched only by her insight into the world of insects and plant life, as evidenced by the hundreds of plates and drawings of the nature and its inhabitants that she produced.

Between the years 1675 and 1680, Merian published her first book, The New Book of Flowers, in three volumes. The illustrations, such as the one above, are considered to be landmarks in the development of botanical printing and illustration.

Merian also undertook a serious study of the development of caterpillars, and in 1679, published The Caterpillars’ Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food. One of the first naturalists to observe insects directly in nature, her work on caterpillars is considered to be a major advance in entomology.

Many of her botanical prints, such as Two Simple Narcissicontain glimpses of her interest in caterpillars and butterflies, demonstrating how she combined her two passions in her work. Merian was both an insightful scientific mind and an incredibly proficient artist. It is rare indeed that someone is endowed with one of these remarkable talents; that she possessed both is extraordinary. By capturing every detail of a flower or an insect, Merian became known for her ability to both truthfully represent a subject in a scientific way and produce a beautiful piece of art. This is wonderfully exemplified in prints such as Dutch Rose.

We here at Gallery Direct are proud to print a handful of Merian prints for your home or office. Whether you’re looking for roses that will never lose their bloom or a simple hyacinth, Merian’s illustrations are not only beautiful, but also represent an important art historical moment – the meeting of science and aesthetics.

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