fbpx Biennale Arte 2022 | Maria Sibylla Merian
La Biennale di Venezia

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Maria Sibylla Merian

1647, Germany – 1717, the Netherlands


  • TUE - SUN
    23/04 > 25/09
    11 AM - 7 PM

    FRI - SAT UNTIL 25/09
    11 AM - 8 PM

    TUE - SUN
    27/09 > 27/11
    10 AM - 6 PM
  • Arsenale
  • Admission with ticket

In 1699, naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian set out on the first scientific voyage ever made by a woman, and, upon reaching the Dutch colony of Suriname, spent the next two years documenting the life cycle of tropical butterflies. Merian drew on the knowledge of members of the local communities to hone her research methods. Her keen artistic gaze soon showed her that insects, which the culture of the time tended to associate with the devil, were capable of fascinating transformations. From then  on, their metamorphoses were the focus of her artistic practice. For the first time, the sixty hand-coloured plates in Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (1705) depict about ninety species of insects along with the plants on which they complete their metamorphoses. In plate 11, the artist shows a sample of Erythrina fusca, or coral bean, its leaves and pods housing caterpillars and chrysalides that will become silk moths. Another illustration, plate 5, shows the life cycle of a tetrio sphinx moth with golden wings and showy curled proboscis, depicted as it flutters around a cassava root inhabited by a boa. These images present spectacular scenes of nature’s delicate cycles, where every detail is about to turn into something else. 

Stefano Mudu


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