At the turn of the 18th century, Amsterdam is at the centre of an intellectual revolution, with artists and scientists racing to record the wonders of the natural world. Of all the brilliant naturalists in Europe, Maria Sibylla Merian is one of its brightest stars.For as long as she can remember, Dorothea Graff's life has been lived in service to her mother, Maria: from collecting insects to colouring illustrations for Maria's world-famous publications. While Dorothea longs for a life that is truly her own, she constantly finds herself drawn back into her mother's world - and shadow.
When Maria becomes entranced by the plant and insect life of Suriname, she is determined to record it for herself. At just twenty years old, Dorothea decides to join her on this once-in-a-lifetime journey. All the family's savings are ploughed into the dangerous expedition, but greatness is never achieved without sacrifice. The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname will be Maria's masterpiece, but ensuring its legacy - and her own survival - will become her daughter's burden. When offered a chance of happiness, will Dorothea have the courage to take it, and risk everything her mother built?
From the jungles of South America to the bustling artists' studios of Amsterdam, Melissa Ashley charts an incredible period of discovery. With stunning lyricism and immaculate research, The Naturalist of Amsterdam gives voice to the long-ignored women who shaped our understanding of the natural world - both the artists and those who made their work possible.