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Maria Sibylla Merian

Merian, Maria Sibylla (märēˈä zĭbüˈlä māˈrēän) [key], 1647–1717, Swiss naturalist and painter of insects and flowers; daughter of Matthäus Merian, the elder. Her first book on insects, with plates she engraved and colored, was published in 1699. The same year she went to Dutch Guiana to study tropical insects, and her work on that subject appeared in 1705. Her remarkable painting of a Guianan bird-eating spider was ridiculed as a flight of female fancy until 1863 when an English naturalist observed a similar spider in the Amazon forest. Merian's careful research in natural history, combined with her exquisite pictorial studies, mostly in watercolor, earned her considerable esteem. The British Museum has two volumes of her drawings.

See K. Todd, Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis (2007); Maria Sibylla Merian and Daughters: Women of Art and Science (2008), catalog ed. by E. Reitsma.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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