Dublin Blaschka Congress

Organising committee chair: Julia Sigwart
Collections-based Biology in Dublin

Crystal Creatures

  • The proceedings of the Dublin Blaschka Congress will be available in early 2008 (see Research)

In September 2006, Collections-based Biology in Dublin (CoBiD) organised the first-ever international meeting focussed on the work of glass artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. These 19th Century artists produced a fusion of science and art which has never been equalled.  Art and science museums worldwide hold Blaschka sculptures, which are increasingly recognised for their historical, technical, and artistic importance.  Bridging the gap between science and art puts the Blaschka’s work in a unique position, which is long overdue for serious study.

These sculptures famously include anatomically detailed, scientifically correct models of hundreds of species of marine animals, and greatly magnified microscopic organisms.  The largest collection in the world, in Harvard, contains thousands of examples of three-dimensional flowers and plants rendered in glass.  The sculptures are so detailed that they are in many cases startlingly realistic.  Modern glass artists have been unable to recreate these stunning, intricate sculptures, and the father and son team never recorded their techniques.  This has led to fears among experts who are struggling to preserve and repair models more than 120 years old, which fall prey to the inevitable ravages of time.

‘There is growing interest in Blaschka works, because these are the first objects that directly connect science and art.  Scientists call them “models”, artists call them “sculptures”, but they clearly have a huge value to both,’ said Nigel Monaghan, Keeper of Natural History in Dublin.  ‘This congress is very timely for our collection, and for many scholars.’  In their own era, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka described themselves as ‘natural history artisans.’ Their work has since been described as ‘an artistic marvel in the field of science and a scientific marvel in the field of art.’ 

The Dublin Blaschka Congress took place 28 - 30 September 2006.  Crystal Creatures, a public exhibition of Blaschka models never before seen on display was held in the National Museum of Ireland (Natural History), Dublin from September through December 2006.

The Dublin Blaschka Congress was hosted in Ireland by CoBiD, the partnership linking University College Dublin and the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History.  For more information on CoBiD activities, please see http://www.ucd.ie/cobid or contact Julia Sigwart.