Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Blaschka Glass Menagerie Dynasty

The Natural History Museum (NHM)
German glass artists Leopold (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf (1857-1939) Blaschka produced wonderous glass anotomical models of organisms, including many marine invertebrates and flowers, which went on to populate the natural history museums of the world, universities and aquaria. These were creatures and plants they wished to display but which were difficult to preserve and often rarely observed. Previously, models were limited to drawings, pressed specimens, photos, paper and wax models. The famous Blaschka models not only provided views of anatomy in a full three dimensions, they were beautiful and quite accurate. There were other glass artists making zoological and botanical models, but the Blaschkas were known for their attention to detail - and for the perhaps unexpected way this very specialized career in scientific illustration (in glass) was passed from father to son and how this one family of scientific artisans produced so much of the world's collections of glass specimen models.

Octopus from the Cornell collection
Leopold even kept an aquarium in his home to study these creatures for his models.

Physalia arethusa (glass model of a Portuguese Man-of-War). There are about two hundred tentacles made of thin coloured glass, supported and attached by fine copper wires. (via National Museum Wales)  
 Despite its unexpected resemblance to the 'Golden Snitch' of Harry Potter and the imaginary game of Quidditch fame, the 'sea gooseberry' is a is a common genus of Ctenophora.
A 'sea gooseberry' or 'comb jellyfish' (Pleurobranchia rhododactyla).
Length: 205mm.

Charybdea periphyllum (glass model)
Pelagia cyanella (glass model).
Sea anenomies displaying a territorial dispute.
Here S. troglodytes fires stinging cells at A. mesembryanthemum who has ventured too close. This behaviour was observed first hand in the aquaria at the Blaschka's home.
Base: 180x110mm. Height: 80mm. (via National Museum Wales)
collection of 5 marine invertebrates in glass from the Aurelia aurita, Berenice euchroma, Physophora hydrostatica and Pelagia noctiluca species from the Fonazione Scienzia e Tecnia, Florence, Italy

Highly magnified model of single cell amoeba (Amoeba proteus).
Diameter: 120mm.
Life sized model of marine snail (Cerithium vulgatum) with glass body fitted in real shell.
Length: 90mm.
From the Harvard glass flower collection

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