Monday, September 2, 2013

Komarov Botanical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences

The Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences is a leading botanical institution in Russia, It is located on Aptekarsky Island in St. Petersburg, and is named after the Russian botanist Vladimir Leontyevich Komarov (1869-1945).

The institute hosts Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden as well as herbarium collections that house over seven million specimens of plants and fungi. The latter is the largest collection in Russia, and among the three largest in the world.

We got to see flora and fauna illustrations by Maria Sibylla Merian that had been mostly hidden from the public eye. During a trip to Amsterdam in 1719, Peter the Great encountered a collection (144 illustrations) of watercolors by a little-known female artist.  The tsar was entranced by the opulent color, exquisite detail and refined lines of the collection - pictures of flowers, plants, sea creatures and insects, each depicted with remarkable scientific accuracy.  Peter brought the watercolors back to St. Petersburg and with them opened Russia's first museum.  After Peter's death, the paintings were given to the Academy of Sciences, where they have resided ever since.

Maria Sibylla Merian's Work

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