Glass models of squid

Glass models showing two species of colourful squid and an octopus

Colour in the collections: Blaschka glass models

Dozens of colourful wildlife specimens were displayed in the recent Colour and Vision exhibition, but the Museum also houses many special, vibrant artefacts.

The Blaschka glass models are one example. Tiny, delicate and beautiful, they capture the ethereal mystery of the deep sea.

More than 10,000 were created by father-and-son team Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the nineteenth century. 

Blaschka glass model in Treasures Cadogan gallery

The models brought ocean creatures above the surface when they were created in the nineteenth century
 

Depicting marine invertebrates including jellyfish, octopus and squid, these models seem impossibly detailed, with every eye and tentacle rendered perfectly in glass.

The glass models tell a story of life beneath the waves. They brought the anatomy of marine invertebrates into the classroom, lab and gallery at a time before underwater photography.

The Museum collection is home to more than 180 of the sculptures, which were based on scientific illustrations of the day and real animals kept in a saltwater aquarium.

 

When they were made more than a hundred years ago, the models impressed Museum staff because they were accurate studies of animals that are difficult to display.

Real specimens without backbones are difficult to see as they are kept collapsed at the bottom of jars. 

The colour can also drain from specimens when they are preserved in museums. But the exquisite hues of the glass have endured.

Collections manager Miranda Lowe cares for the Museum's Blaschka models. She says, 'Live animals do have these colours, but they are quickly lost when the creatures are preserved in alcohol.

'These models bring art and science together. They are beautiful artefacts and a useful scientific resource.'

See the models

Visit a selection of the glass models in the Treasures Cadogan Gallery