Life and Work
In her restless life Maria Sibyilla Merian (1647-1717) often moved from one place to another: from Frankfurt to Nuremberg, back to Frankfurt, to Frisia, to Amsterdam and from there on her dangerous, admirably courageous two-year expedition to Surinam (South America).
She lived in Nuremberg for only 14 years (1668-1682). Nevertheless, this was one fifth of her entire lifetime and a particularly important period, for it was during these years that she developed into the world-famous artist and naturalist she has remained to this day. It was in Nuremberg that she regularly and intensively collected and observed the different phases in the life of insects, which experts call metamorphosis. She drew and described these changes precisely.
For the first time in natural history, she systematically showed how her "summer birds" (butterflies), moths, bees, beetles and other insects developed in different stages, together with the different plants on which they each depended during their development. She worked tirelessly on many copper etchings, which she published in five printed books in Nuremberg (1675-1683) with the help of her husband, the architectural painter Johann Andreas Graff.
Observing insects in their natural habitat with their special food and nectar plants became the focus of her life and she is therefore considered the first "ecologist". Twenty-two years after her last publication in Nuremberg she completed her spectacular, large-format book on Surinam insects, which experts praise as her crowning achievement.