" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The enchanted world of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka - The forgotten glass flowers

In times were Internet and Wikipedia give us instant answers for any possible quest and millions of accurate pictures of plants and animals fulfill our curiosity for scientific detail, there is an stunning and incredibly poetic collection of painstakingly accurate botanical models created of glass - the artwork of two Bohemian glass artists in the name of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

Apple Blossoms

The Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants  represents 847 plant species painstakingly and accurately crafted by father and son glass artists duo for didactic purposes. 

Hardly known by the big public, the Blaschkas also produced an impressive collection of sea animals - especially invertebrates, jellyfish, sea anemones and microscopic organisms. Part of the marine fauna collection is stored at the Trinity College in Dublin for which it has been crafted.
 Their colorful glass replicas captured in every detail the liveliness of organisms usually reduced to shapeless blobs in jars of alcohol.


Originally charged with creating just a few models, the Blaschkas signed an exclusive contract with the Harvard University to produce a collection of over 4,000 glass models, working from 1886 through 1936. 3,000 models are on display, and just one model of the angelica tree includes some 2,500 individual buds and flowers. The models also include remarkably accurate anatomical sections and enlarged flower and fruit parts. Leopold Blaschka’s actual work bench and tools are on display in the gallery. 


The nearly 3,000 models were made by the two men over a period of 50 years. Heirs to a long tradition of glass-working in Bohemia, they had moved to Germany and established a studio outside of Dresden.

The Blaschkas' glass sea creatures drew the attention of Professor George L. Goodale, the first director of Harvard's Botanical Museum. He had been searching for a better way to represent the flora. "Flowers are perishable," he explained at the 1890 dedication. "When dried they are distorted, when placed in alcohol they are robbed of their color." Drawings, while "spirited and truthful," were flat. Wax flowers or papier-maché, often used in funeral wreaths, were "exaggerated and grotesque."
Goodale believed glass models were the answer and in 1886, he met  the Blaschkas in their German home and started a lifetime collaboration. The results is this absolutely stunning and enchanted world of hyper fragile yet immortal glass flowers.


 Flytrap - Nepenthes Sanguinea.

 Fig branch and sections

 Okra flower

 Glass apple with branch

all pictures are from the Harvard site

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