Sunday, 5 November 2017

Tiny Beauties by Joan Lennon

I remember seeing them first in the old Chambers Street Museum in Edinburgh, before its transformation into the National Museum of Scotland.  Then they were tucked into an old-fashioned display case in a side gallery.  Now they are part of the Grand Gallery's Window on the World - a three storey high Cabinet of Curiosities.  They are the Blaschka models - tiny beauties in glass -

(my photos, taken through glass on a sunny day, but I did my best!)

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists interested in studying hard-to-preserve invertebrate animals and sea plants had to depend on 2D drawings.  The Blaschkas, father (Leopold Blaschka 1822-1895) and son (Rudolf Blaschka 1857-1939), took on the challenge of making 3D educational models in, of all things, glass.  They are painstakingly, astonishingly accurate and they are minute.  Many are smaller than the length of my thumb - the biggest are less than the length of my hand.  And I have dinky hands. 

I visit them every time I go to the Museum, and I would love to see more.  The Blaschkas were commissioned by museums far and wide - Harvard Museum of Natural History, for example, has an entire section dedicated to Blaschka flower models, and the Natural History Museum in London has examples like this utterly gorgeous tiny octopus -


Knowledge of the techniques the Blaschkas used to create these undeniable works of art died with them.  Part of me is sad about that.  But part of me finds it oddly satisfying.  Sometimes mystery can be exquisite too.

P.S. More about the Blaschka story can be found here and here
P.P.S. I call dibs on writing the graphic novel version!

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Walking Mountain.


Penny Dolan said...

Good to see the small things celebrated and, perhaps by help of this post, being seen by visitors more often.

Glass looks the perfect medium for such watery or slippery creatures - and certainly intriguing to know the secrets died with the makers.

Susan Price said...

Joan, you always post something amazing and visual. I've never seen or heard of these wonders before. Why aren't they as famous as Faberge eggs?

Sue Purkiss said...

How gorgeous!