Monday, August 25, 2014

The Glass Flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Glass botanical models by the Blaschkas. Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Yes. The roots you see there? ALL. GLASS.* (see further

All the fine leafy fern bits? Glass!
One of my highlights from our camping trip was visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A few years ago a German friend of mine told me all about the glass flowers created by the insanely talented Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka from Dresden. The Blaschkas were unparalleled masters in glass model production. In the late 1800s the Blaschkas were commissioned by Harvard University to create botanical models for research purposes. What they created over the next 4 decades was truly remarkable. The Blaschkas never took on an apprentice and when the Leopold, the father, and later Rudolph, the son, passed away (in 1895 and 1939 respectively), so did their secret techniques. 
My son took some photos for me at the museum with his phone (which was permitted) but to truly see the exquisite detail of their work it would be best to type:  into your search engine. They are so exquisite and realistic I could not wrap my head around it. I went back out the doors and said to one of the staff:
So, the enlarged botanical details are glass? The ones laying beside the preserved (or plastic I thought) models?
Staff member: Nope! It's all glass.
To which I stupidly continued, Yes, but the branches and diseased fruit for example....

Staff member: All. Glass.
Me: The flowers, yes, but the roots and...

Staff member: ALL. GLASS. And you can take pictures. And people won't believe it. Everything is made of glass. I know. It's amazing.

From The Corning Museum of Glass (October 18, 2011): 
The Blaschkas eventually agreed to create a few plant models for Harvard. Another hurdle arose, however, for these first precious models were shattered in shipment. Always inventive, the Blaschkas ended up devising a mode of shipping so fail-proof that Dr. Goodale was quoted as saying that the packing of the flowers was “almost as wonderful as anything about them.”
...For 46 years, everything the Blaschkas made went to Harvard: nearly 850 sets of models, with more than 4,300 enlarged details, were commissioned.
Thank you Iris for introducing me to the incredible Blaschkas! 

1 comment:

Barbara Muir said...

Awesome story and photos. Oh My. This must have been incredible to see. Thank you for sharing it Kim.