Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Plate XXXIV Grape Vine with Gaudy Sphinx Moth
  • Maria Sibylla Merian
    born: Frankfurt, Germany ; died: Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Plate XXXIV Grape Vine with Gaudy Sphinx Moth, 1771
  • Histoire générale des insectes de Surinam et de toute l’Europe, contenant leurs descriptions, leurs figures, leurs differentes metamorphoses, de même que les descriptions des plantes, fleurs & fruits, dont ils se nourissent ... par Mademoiselle Marie Sybille de Merian, en deux parties in-folio
  • book
  • Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, Department of Special Collections, H25; Courtesy of Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
  • Not on display
  • EL2018.008.c
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World", 27-Mar-2018
Artist and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian traveled to the then-Dutch colony of Surinam to document and observe the local plant and animal life. European audiences eagerly embraced plants she studied, including plant-based New World goods such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber, and began importing these goods en masse to Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. In her commentary accompanying this plate, Merian wrote of the grapes that grew wild in Surinam: “It is regrettable that one can find nobody interested in cultivating them; it would not be necessary to bring wine to Surinam; rather it would be possible to bring wine from there back to Holland, for the grapes can be harvested more than once a year.” Illustrations of the Gaudy Sphinx Moth’s larval, pupal, and adult life stages accompany the grapes.

Merian unifies pictorially the interwoven fabric of the lives flora and fauna. Her 1671 publication, Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandlung und sonderbare Blumennahrung (The Wonderful Transformation of Caterpillars and [Their] Singular Plant Nourishment), both describes the transformation of caterpillars into moths and butterflies and also depicts the plants that these insects eat and inhabit. Indeed, she never depicted a plant without including the holes or nibbled edges left behind by hungry insects.