Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium - Maria Sibylla Merian

The Natural History Museum

Art and nature shall always be wrestling until they eventually conquer one another so that the victory is the same stroke and line: that which is conquered, conquers at the same time.'
Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was a German naturalist and one of the first scientists to depict the life cycles of insects and the plants on which they feed.

Her eye for detail, interest in first-hand observation and drive to explore the unknown significantly contributed to the advancement of entomology in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Merian's highly acclaimed book, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, was first published in 1705. The work highlighted the life cycles of insects from Surinam, now the Republic of Suriname.

Many of the depicted insects and plants were new or little known to European scientists. The book would therefore have been many people's introduction to plants such as pineapples, pomegranates, bananas, guavas and cashews, as well as the insects that live on them.

Merian's detailed work was held in high esteem by many within the scientific community and beyond. For example, Carl Linnaeus referred to her exquisite illustrations for several plants and over 100 animal species in his seminal work on the classification of the natural world.

You can see this image in more detail in Google Art and Culture.