ABSTRACT

Flower painters and feminist figurations In 1699, Maria Sybilla Merian travelled from Amsterdam to the Dutch colony of Surinam. Over the course of the next two years, Merian studied the insects native to the region and, with the help of her younger daughter Dorothea Maria, documented their growth, metamorphosis and environmental constraints in detailed drawings and watercolours. Merian’s images and notes, taken from careful observation and discussion with the local population, formed the basis of her volume Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium, published in 1705 in Amsterdam. This work confirmed Merian’s reputation as an artist-entomologist throughout Europe; the expensive volume sold well among scientists and collectors, its images and text were cited extensively by Carl von Linné [Linnaeus] in his work on naming species, and nearly two hundred of her original illustrations were purchased by Peter the Great for his collections.1