Maria Sibylla Merian was the daughter of the well-known Swiss engraver and publisher Matthäus Merian. On her father’s early death, her Dutch mother married the flower painter Jacob Marrell. It was one of his pupils, Johann Graff of Nuremberg, who first taught Maria to paint, and later they married. Maria was primarily interested in entomology, and her first book, on the insects of Europe, with fine coloured plates of insects and flowers, was published in 1679. Some years later she was shown a collection of tropical insects which had been brought back from Surinam. This inspired her, and together with her daughter Dorothea, she embarked on a remarkably enterprising journey to South America, arriving in September 1699. They stayed for nearly two years studying and recording the plants and insects, the results of their labours being the magnificent Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium.
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