Merian, Maria Sibylla

, a lady much and justly ceJebrated for her skill in drawing insects, flowers, and other subjects of natural history, was born at Francfort on the Maine, in 1647; being the grand-daughter and daughter of Dutch engravers of some celebrity, whose talents were continued and improved in her. She was instructed by Abraham Mignon. She married John Andriez Graff, a skilful painter and architect of Nuremberg, but the fame she had previously attached to her own name, has prevented that of her husband from being adopted. They had two children, both daughters, who were also skilful in drawing. By liberal offers from Holland, this ingenious couple were induced to settle there; but Sibylla, whose great object was the study of nature, had the courage to travel in various parts, for the sake of delineating the insects, and several other productions peculiar to each country. She ventured to take the voyage to Surinam, where she remained two years, for the express purpose of making the drawings which have since added so considerably to her fame; and, though it does not appear that there was any kind of disagreement between her and her husband, she went, if we mistake not, without him. His own occupations, probably, precluded such a journey. Madame Merian died at Amsterdam in 1717, at the age of seventy.

The drawings of this lady have a delicacy and a beauty of colour, which have seldom been equalled, and her designs are still in high estimation, notwithstanding the great attention which has since been paid to the accurate execution of such works. She published, 1. “The origin of Caterpillars, their nourishment and changes” written in Dutch; Nuremberg, 1679–1688, in 2 vols. 4to. This was afterwards translated into Latin, and published at Amsterdam, in 1717, 4to. This work, much augmented by herself and daughters, with thirty-six additional plates and notes, was published in French by John Marret, Amsterdam, 1730, folio, under the title of, “Histoire des | Insectes d'Europe.” 2. “Dissertatio de Generatione et Metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium,Anise. 1705, folio. This contains only sixty plates. To some of the later editions twelve plates were annexed, by her daughters Dorothea and Helena. There is an edition of this in folio, French and Dutch, printed at Amsterdam, in 1719. Another in French and Latin, 1726; and another in Dutch, in 1730. There have been also editions of the two works united, under the title of “Histoire des Insectes de PEurope et de PAmerique,” Amst. 1730; Paris, 1768 1771. Many of the original drawings of this artist are in the British Museum, in two large volumes, which were purchased by sir Hans Sloane, at a large price. The current opinion is, that he gave five guineas for each drawing; but this is not sufficiently authenticated. Of these volumes, one contains the insects of Surinam, the other those of Europe, and among them are many designs which have never been engraved. Among those of the Surinam insects are several, which, though very elegantly finished, appear evidently, on examination, to be painted on impressions taken from the wet proofs of the engravings. Those of Europe are, perhaps, entirely original drawings. In the engraved works, much less justice has been done to the European insects than to those of America. Matthew Merian, the father of this lady, published many volumes of topographical engravings and collections of plates in sacred history. 1


Moreri. —Strutt’s Dict. of Engravers, —Dict. Hist.