Maria’s fascination with the outside world and insects in particular was quite exceptional, especially for a woman in the 17th century. Looking outside for swarming creatures wasn’t exactly a “girl’s pastime” in 1660. Before that, insects weren’t taken into consideration at all. In fact, insects were known as “devil beasts,” demonic beasts that humans should not concern themselves with. Because of this aversion to insects, people did not know much about them at that time. The prevailing theory at the time was that insects arose “from thin air,” from dead matter or slime.
However, Maria also had a good time; Interest in insects grew over the course of the seventeenth century. They have been given symbolic meanings in the paintings. In addition, a culture of collecting wonderful objects from nature emerged, which the owner displayed in his “Cabinet of Wonders”. Behind the glass, in drawers and cabinets, were the most beautiful, shimmering beetles, majestic shells, but also representations of (unknown) natural phenomena worth admiring and discussing (and secretly bragging about). Maria responded to this by presenting her observations not only meticulously, but also in beautiful compositions. They have made many drawings, watercolors, prints and counter-prints as well in different sizes and different editions. The exciting beauty of her works She made all the important collectors of the time want her work and show it to everyone!
In other words, Maria, with her book on caterpillars, showed for the first time to a wide audience in the Western world (in China and the surrounding area, they had known this for a much longer time) that: 1) caterpillars turn into butterflies (and they don’t turn into butterflies). They arise “out of nowhere”), and 2) insects have a predictable life cycle.
This has enabled scientists to study the lives of insects and understand their role in the environment. Something that scientists (including me) are still working on today. Insects have gone from being unpopular and merely symbolic for the first time to becoming fascinating and essential research subjects. For this reason, Maryam is viewed as (one of) the founders of entomology. Although Maria is now best known for her later work on Insect Metamorphosis surinamencium, her earlier work was truly pioneering. Her findings are as fundamental to ecology as Darwin’s theory of evolution or Linnaeus’s taxonomy of species.
During her lifetime, Maria eventually recorded the flawless metamorphosis of about 150 European butterflies, which she raised herself as caterpillars. In addition, her books and records ended with some of the richest and most influential people of the 18th century. Maria has changed the way we look at nature and continues to demonstrate the value of careful observation. After suffering a stroke, she spent her final years in a wheelchair and eventually died in relative poverty. Although she may not have been (yet) as famous as Darwin or Linnaeus, her contributions to art and science cannot be underestimated. Fortunately, just like Darwin’s finches and Linnaeus’ bluebells, they also had a species named after them; Merian brush butterfly!
There is more to say about the complex life of Maria Sibylla Merian than we can say here. interested? You can’t do it alone Surinamencium insect metamorphosis They can be viewed online for free, and biographies and novels have been written about them. And of course there is too Connected A lot about her. finally This podcast Highly recommended!