Etching/engraving on handlaid (verge) paper.
Sheet size: 17,3 x 24,3 cm. (6,8 x 9,6 inch). Image size: 14,8 x 20,5 cm. (5,8 x 8,1 inch).
From: ‘De Europische Insecten’ by Maria Sibylla Merian, published by J.F. Bernard in Amsterdam, 1730. These plates are from the expanded, Dutch edition of the book that was also published in German in 1730, as ‘Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung’. Although the book is a work on entomology, the depicted insects are unidentified. However, each plate features a number of moths, butterflies, flies and their associated larvae and caterpillars. The colouring of the plate is modern, professionally done. Maria Sibylla Merian (Frankfurt, 1647-Amsterdam, 1717) was a naturalist and scientist who studied plants and insects. She also made detailed paintings of the subjects she studied. Her biological father was the engraver and publisher Matthaus Merian, and when he died, Merian’s mother married Jacob Marrel. It was Marrel who encouraged young Maria Sibylla to start painting, and at the age of 13 she had painted her first insects and plants. Her study of insects, and especially the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, was much celebrated in high society. It contested the notion that insects were “born from mud” in spontaneous generation. Merian studied specimens (partly in her own captivity), and described the life cycles of 186 insect species. Although she was correct in her notion of caterpillar metamorphosis, and several scientists in her time already adhered to this idea, the contemporary scientific language was still Latin. So, although her work was widely read and praised by the gentry as it was written in the vernacular, scientists took little notice of Merian’s hard work. She wrote a similar work on the insects of Surinam during her stay there, from 1699 to 1701. Shortly before her death, Tsar Peter the Great saw (and greatly admired) her work in Amsterdam. This resulted in the acquisition of a number of Merian’s works into the collections of the Tsar. Merian’s works are admired and collected until today for their artistic merit. Especially since the end of the 20th century interest in her work has been revived. Ref: Bibliographical reference: *Nissen, BBI, 1342; *Landwehr, Col.pl., 136 Each of these plates also features a varying number of unidentified larvae, cocoons, caterpillars, moths and butterflies. Very rare decorative insect/botanical print with gorgeous hand colouring.
Made by ‘Maria Sibylla Merian’ after own design.
Condition: Very good, given age. Very good considering age. Coloring of recent date done by reknown british colorers. General age-related toning and/or occasional minor defects from handling. Please study scan carefully.