(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.