Maria Sibylla Merian was born in Germany in 1647 and received early artistic training from her stepfather, an established still life painter. She was fascinated by insects and collected, cultivated, and drew them as a child. She began to publish hand-etched and printed catalogues of illustrations in 1679, and became a reliable source for new entomological and botanical documentation. Her work was even cited by Carl Linnaeus. After her death in Amsterdam in 1717, Peter the Great acquired numerous original watercolors of Merian’s, many of which he’d seen during a visit with the artist in the final years of her life. These pieces from his collection, still housed in St. Petersburg, were later termed the Leningrad Watercolors, and 50 of them were beautifully reproduced in 1974.