special exhibitions

blaschka glass models

from 30. November 2016

from the lecture hall into the museum: an underwater world made of glass
Glass models of invertebrate marine animals created by Leopold und Rudolf Blaschka
from November 30 on

Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka
The Bohemian glass artist Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895), who was interested in natural sciences, started to create glass models of invertebrate marine animals in Dresden in 1863. His only apprentice was his son Rudolf (1857-1939), whom he trained from 1870. When Rudolf Blaschka died, the knowledge about the production of the models was lost.

Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka worked closely with renowned scientists of their time, such as Franz Eilhard Schulze, Carl Claus, and Ernst Haeckel. As references they used both, drawings and from 1880 also living animals kept by the father and son in their own aquarium.

Animals and plants
In their sales catalogs Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka offered more than 700 different models of invertebrate marine animals, such as sea anemones and corals, jellyfish, worms, marine gastropods, squids, and starfish. From 1890 they worked only for Harvard University, for which they exclusively produced models of plants.

Representation instead of preparation
As they have neither bones nor cartilages, preservation of invertebrate animals is difficult. Glass is particularly suitable for durable and highly lifelike replicas. Because of their precision and details, Blaschka glass models were acquired by schools, universities, and museums all over the world as teaching models.

Origin of the collection
Carl Claus (1835-1899) was professor of zoology at the University of Vienna from 1873. He commissioned around 150 Blaschka glass models in the 1870s and 1880s. He was also the founder and director of the Zoological Station in Trieste, from where he regularly had living animals sent to Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka by train.

The Blaschka Collection of the University of Vienna
With 145 glass models of marine invertebrates, the University of Vienna owns the second largest collection of Blaschka models in the German-speaking part of Europe after the Kremsmünster Abbey. The collection was used in teaching until the 1930s and was rediscovered only in the 1980s. This presentation of selected objects in cooperation with the NHM Vienna shall provide insight into this remarkable stock for the general public.