Thursday, June 05, 2008

Surinam Insect Metamorphosis

spiders and webs in Maria Sybilla Merian's seminal 18th century illustrated book on insects from Surinam

Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensium (p71)

caterpillar and moth book illustrations

engravings of fruit and flying insects

18th century book engraving of insects

insect illustrations

Merian - south american insect sketches

alligator by Maria Sibella Merian

alligator engraving

insect drawing - 1700s

book illustration - insect engraving

surinam insect - book sketch

exquisite book engraving of insects

caterpillars and moth engravings

Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensium (p78)

Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensium (p95)

18th century insect engravings

Surinam - moth

Surinam - bee

Surinam - tadpole to frog

Moth - Surinam

The posting online this week of a 1719 edition of Dutch entomologist Maria Sybilla (Sibylla)* Merian's 'Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensium' (1705) seemed like an appropriate reason to revisit this exquisite monograph. [see previous entry - Surinam Metamorphosis - for more links and the compelling background to this fifty five year old mother's art/research trip to the South American wilds]

"In Holland, I noted with much astonishment what beautiful animals came from the East and West Indies. I was blessed with having been able to look at both the expensive collection of Doctor Nicolaas Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam and director of the East Indies society, and that of Mr. Jonas Witsen, secretary of Amsterdam.

Moreover I also saw the collections of Mr. Fredericus Ruysch, doctor of medicine and professor of anatomy and botany, Mr. Livinus Vincent, and many other people. In these collections I had found innumerable other insects, but finally if here their origin and their reproduction is unknown, it begs the question as to how they transform, starting from caterpillars and chrysalises and so on. All this has, at the same time, led me to undertake a long dreamed of journey to Suriname." [Foreword]


Karla said...

Merian's work is always impressive, but I think we art historians normally regard her as an artist more than an entomologist. It's always a good thing to be so multitalented... then everyone can claim you!

Mike Moore said...

These renderings are beautiful. Thank-you for sharing!

peacay said...

Scientific progress has the effect of diminishing what may have once been significant progress to mere footnotes. As you say, Merian stands out simply because of the artistic worth but I think there was some feedback effect on science too. Displaying specimens in a natural setting (-vs- the usual contemporary stylised artifice) most likely influenced scientific artists because of the artistic merit and success of the work, as it were.

Suzanne said...

Beautiful feature, monsieur!

I just thought I should let everyone know that a stunning set of Merian’s watercolours (de luxe versions painted on vellum) are currently on show as part of the "Amazing Rare Things" show at the Queen's Gallery in London (in collaboration with Sir David Attenborough).

I've seen it the other week and was mightily impressed.

However, I don't really seem to understand why the watercolours featured in the show are reversed left to right compared to the images posted here. I sure there's a technical explanation for this though.

peacay said...

Thanks Suzanne. The zoomy feature is great, as is the 'Amazing Rare Things' exhibit. I'm a bit jealous of your visit.
I wonder if the reversing has come about from tracing the originals and that impression being cut directly into the plates which of course then print in reverse. (But I s'pose there could be a few reasons eg. digital file production)

Sir David must be the most loved man in the world. And for good reason. If aliens ever land here, I would want him as our negotiator.

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