Bringing the work of Maria Sibylla Merian back OFF THE PAGE – 

Bringing Maria Sibylla Merian entomological observations and paintings from the 1700’s back Off The Page – as we replicate her original work as sculpture using real specimens.

While there have been a number of books addressing the work and contribution of Maria, there have been very few exhibitions outside of books under glass available for public observation. This exhibition presents a very new way to view not only the historical prints themselves, but also lends an eye into the process before their production.

Maria Sibylla Merian

Who is this Maria Sibylla Merian?

Born in Germany in the late 1600’s to a family of artists and print makers Maria was encouraged to be curious and creative. In a time when Germany was burning witches and insects were largely considered to have spawned from hell, Maria began studying and documenting insect life. Unlike her ‘colleges’ she was not primarily interested in classification or studying dead specimens. She sought out living creatures and the plants they thrived on. She raised them and studied their life cycles.  She wanted to know what they ate, how they reproduced and what propelled them from egg to imago.

Maria documented her findings in beautiful watercolors that she sold to nobles such as Peter the Great. She ultimately used the money from the sales of her first two collections and paintings to fund what is considered to be one first truly scientific field expedition.

The results of her field expedition to Suriname yielded her third book of watercolors, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (1705), an elephant folio of watercolors (individually hand colored by Maria and her daughters) that documents the insects and plant life of Suriname.  Each painting demonstrates the vibrant and active lifecycles of her specimens on their host plants.

Maria discovered unknown species in Suriname and described them by  their native names and how the natives interacted with them. Maria documented the life cycles of insects in a way that had never been done. The text of Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, was in Dutch, instead of Latin, considered at the time to be the language of science. This had two effects, one that she was, unfortunately not taken seriously by some of her male counter parts, but on a positive note, it also meant that everyone could read and understand the text, making her findings accessible to a non-scientific audience. 

Our many thanks go out to author Kim Todd, who has generously helped us unwrap some of the mysteries and adventures surrounding Maria.  And by the way, her biography Chrysalis is simply amazing. 

Maria Sibylla Merian

The little moth and lizard in the middle don’t match these particular plates but the actual plate specimens have been identified and are available!  Your support of this indiegogo campaign will make recreating these plates a reality.