Thursday, August 11, 2011

More flora and fauna

Yesterday I showed a red-billed toucan from Mr Marshal's Flower Book; here's another depiction by early 18th-century German artist Maria Sibylla Merian. "Besides creating visual images of great beauty," the National Museum of Women in the Arts' writeup says,
Merian made observations that revolutionized both botany and zoology....  In 1670, five years after her marriage to the painter Johann Andreas Graff, the family moved to Nuremberg, where Merian published her first illustrated books. In preparation for a catalogue of European moths, butterflies, and other insects, Merian collected, raised, and observed the living insects, rather than working from preserved specimens, as was the norm.... at the age of 52, Merian took the astonishing step of embarking-with her younger daughter, but no male companion-on a dangerous, three-month trip to the Dutch colony of Surinam, in South America. Having seen some of the dried specimens of animals and plants that were popular with European collectors, Merian wanted to study them within their natural habitat. She spent the next two years studying and drawing the indigenous flora and fauna.
The book this comes from was purchased by George III, when Prince of Wales, and now resides in Buckingham Palace (they got all the good stuff). Below is an image from An Edwardian Bestiary, which collects images from several of the Detmold twins' varied (and collectible) books of natural history and fable. I especially love their Jungle Book prints, but all of them are prime exemplars of "the Golden Age of Illustration."

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