Maria Sibylla Merian

Merian was one of the most celebrated naturalists and scientific illustrators of her age. In 1699, she traveled from Amsterdam to Suriname, then a Dutch colony, in South America. While the artist was particularly interested in studying the metamorphosis of insects, she also depicted plants and animals native to the land. The expedition resulted in the publication of the Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium—a groundbreaking treatise that described many species previously unknown in Europe. This drawing served as a preparatory study for a plate included in the expanded second edition of the book. Merian’s powers of observation and her inimitable artistry are exemplified by her description of the structure of the lizard’s body and the texture and pattern of its scales.

Maria Sibylla Merian
German, 1647–1717
Black Tegu Lizard (Tupinambis teguixin), ca. 1701–15
Pen and black ink, and watercolor and opaque watercolor, on vellum
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased on the Sunny Crawford Von Bülow Fund 1978; 2001.10