Generations before 3D printing was available to museums and institutions of higher learning, father and son glass-makers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka were working tirelessly to produce thousands of glass models of invertebrate animals and plants.
With renowned clients like Harvard University, Cornell University, and the Natural History Museum of London and Dublin, the Blaschka’s put tremendous emphasis on conveying as much detail and accuracy as possible.
The models they produced from the mid-1800s until the 1930s were not intended for public sale. They were highly specialized works used by researchers to aid in species identification and study during a time in which almost all such information was conveyed in text and drawings.
Due to their rare and fragile nature, the institutions that acquired these magnificent models have considerable restrictions in place in order to protect and preserve them. Access to surviving models remains extremely limited.
Photographer Guido Mocafico was able to spend the last several years carefully photographing exemplars of the Blaschka glass models. The photographs from those three years of work went display in an exhibition at Hamilton’s Gallery (London) on March 18, 2016.
In describing his project, Mocafico states,
“What I thought would be one years work… has become an obsession, which is the attitude the Blaschka’s had in their work. We must not forget they spent 30-50 years each of their lifetimes, day and night, creating glass models. So for them the commitment was just unbelievable. I am not scared to face that kind of long term job because it is like a homage to the Blaschka’s.”
Though they are obsolete with regards to their utility as a scientific aid, the approximately 4,400 surviving Blaschka biological models maintain an enduring value as glasswork masterpieces and as magnificent products of the Golden Age of natural history.