CRYSTAL CREATURES OF THE SEA
The treasure of the scientific artist Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf Blaschka (1857-1939)
It is the year 1863. These are times of outstanding zoological discoveries. Three-dimensional models are indispensable for the visualization of biological research results. This raises the question of the appropriate material for the showpieces to be produced, especially when dealing with such fragile life forms as jellyfish, sea anemones, polyps, and radiolarians. The established materials are wax, papier mâché, wood and plaster – all of which are unsuitable. Leopold Blaschka chooses a complicated material, delicate, brittle and very expensive to process: Glass! It is the beginning of a success story.
Until 1890, the Dresden workshop produces thousands of glass models of marine invertebrates which find their way into museums, universities, and other scientific institutions around the world. The models continue to amaze scientists until today: they bear up to scientific scrutiny down to the very last detail and are above all transparent pieces of art of unique fragile beauty – the perfect amalgamation of art and science. The production of zoological objects ends abruptly in 1890. The Blaschkas sign an exclusive contract with the Botanical Museum of Harvard University. From then on, they will only produce botanical models.
In Germany, the Blaschka phenomenon is forgotten. The World War does the rest. Most of the works are destroyed. There are no apprentices and no descendants. Nobody really knows how they did it. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka have taken the secret of their treasure to the grave.