Maria Sibylla Merian, “Guave, diverse spinnen en insecten en een kolobri” (guava, various spiders and insects and a hummingbird), Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaemsche Insecten, 1719. #merian*kannisto
This image in the context of the 52-year-old Merian’s journey to Surinam:
Merian’s experiences in the [Dutch colonial] city of Paramaribo are expressed in her accounts of vibrant butterflies, voracious caterpillars and ants, exotic fruits and vegetables, menacing reptiles, and treacherous explorations into the jungle. Her observations about the local climate, the use of plants and animals, and the Dutch colonists’ treatment of slaves provide some of the earliest accounts of life in Suriname.
Merian’s observations of the violence inherent to life in the Surinamese jungle inspired this image of a fierce, predatory tarantula. About these creatures, she wrote, “They are covered with hair all over and supplied with sharp teeth, with which they give deep dangerous bites, at the same time injecting a fluid into the wound…When they fail to find ants they take small birds from their nests and suck all the blood from their bodies.” Later scientists criticized Merian’s inaccurate depiction of four hummingbird eggs instead of three. However, her unabashed rendering of nature is true in spirit.
Image: Mapping out Surinam @ Memory of the Netherlands | Text: J. Paul Getty Museum
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