Exhibition: “Blaschka – Crystal Creatures of the Sea”


The forgotten treasure of the scientific glass artists Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and son Rudolf Blaschka (1857-1939) 

The 19th Century is the age of the biology and zoological discoveries. Three-dimensional models are indispensable for demonstration and mediation of biological research results. But there is the question about the adequate material for building these models, especially when it comes to species which are as fragile as jellyfishes, sea anemones, polyps or even tiny protozoa which are only visible under a microscope. All material used so far, like wood, wax or plaster, is unsuitable for such kind of delicate species.

We are writing the year 1863. Leopold Blaschka decides to use a complicated, sensitive and brittle material to work with: GLASS. It is the beginning of a huge success. Between 1863 and 1890 thousands of glass models of marine invertebrates are crafted in the workshop of Leopold and his son Rudolf in Dresden, Germany. The Blaschka underwater wonder world finds its way into museums, universities and scientific institutions all over the world. Until today natural scientists are amazed and stunning about the morphological accuracy of the glass models up to every single detail. Father and son have a deep biological comprehension which they know to convert into a uniquely and not repeatable technique to create their glass models – a perfect fusion of art and natural science. The production of zoological models ends abrupt in 1890. After tough negotiations the Blaschka’s sign an exclusive contract with the Botanical Museum of the Harvard University, USA. From now on they create botanical models for Harvard only. At least this renowned collection grows up to more than 3000 models.

In the rest of the world the phenomenon Blaschka gets into oblivion. The war does its remainder – most of the glass models are destroyed. The two Blaschka’s have no apprentices and no further descendants. Up till now, nobody knows how they really did it. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka take the secret of their treasure into the grave.