The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Find a quote from page 56.
Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---
Title: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman
Book Beginning: Each chapter begins with a short poem and a photo showing the stages of insect development---egg to egg and every stage in between.
Friday 56: The book is full of examples of the illustrations/art by Maria Merian. She always included insects in her drawings. This is an example of her pen and ink work. She would personally colorize these drawings in her special editions of books.
Comments and review: When I was young I wanted to be an artist. I especially loved working with pen and ink, so when I saw the drawings by Maria Merian I was especially enraptured by the art. But I think that Maria is probably best known for her work identifying the stages of insect development. She was a keen observer and would actually collect eggs and caterpillars and note what happened next. Unbelievably, in the late 1600s, when she lived, people thought that insects just emerged fully formed from corpses or the like. They also thought that people who spent time poking around in things that people didn't understand were suspect. Maria Merian had to be careful to not be labeled as a witch. Fortunately she was raised in a publishing family and both her father and step-father taught her how to draw and create the lovely flower paintings, otherwise her femaleness would have been a barrier to her talents. When Maria was in her forties, she traveled to Suriname in South America with one of her daughters. There she discovered many insects and animals that Europeans had never seen before. She brought home many samples and people were amazed. As soon as she could, though her health was not good, she set about creating a book with her diagrams showing what she discovered during her time in Suriname. This work still stands as a treasure, though she made some mistakes, many of her discoveries led to later work by other scientists and memorialized creatures which have become extinct.
"Fortunately, today's scientists, historians, and art collectors have rediscovered and acknowledged her work for what it is: amazingly beautiful, accurate portrayals of insect metamorphoses and ecosystems. her words and artwork told fascinating, intertwined stories to a public still highly suspicious of insects...The word ecology was not invented until more than fifty years after her death, but once again, Maria was ahead of her time. Many have called her the world's first ecologist" (119-120).
I loved this book. It was written by an artist, not a writer. That fact makes me smile. I love it that it was a woman who helped the world see the beauty and importance of insects. All those old, classically trained men couldn't figure it out, but Maria, with keen skills at observation figured out what should have been obvious. And her art. It is so lovely.
This YouTube video includes LOTS of samples of her paintings and illustrations and it set to Handel's music. (Handel and Merian were alive at the same time.) Even if you don't want to watch all 11 minutes of it, at least click to start the video so you can see more examples of her art. Lovely.
The book is written for a younger audience, lets say for middle school students. I always wonder what kids would read books like this, though. But maybe there is some science or artsy student who wants to read an inspiring story of combining art and scientific observation. The book includes a table of contents, lots of examples of Maria Merian's work, a timeline of her life, quotes sources, a thorough bibliography, image credits and a short index. All of these make this book a very very credible resource for research or school projects. I recommend it highly to everyone, not just young teens.