CAMBRIDGE, Mass., August 7, 2019— Imagine an orchard, lush and bursting with ripe fruit in the sweltering summer sun. Not all of the fruit weighing down the branches and vines will be fit to consume. Some strawberries will dampen and shrivel with mold, some peaches will be blighted in the shade, and some pears will become pockmarked with age.
However, there is a beauty in this natural decaying process that repeats with each season. Perhaps the rot will be cut away and the fruit will be preserved as jam, jellies, pie, or compote. Maybe a hungry child or traveler will wander through the orchard rows and choose a less-than-perfect specimen for their late afternoon snack. Right now, in orchards in New England and beyond, microscopic agents are at work consuming the fruit to its core in a world beyond our sight.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is pleased to present Fruits in Decay, a special new exhibit in the Glass Flowers Gallery that explores blight, rot, and other diseases on summer fruits. It features exquisitely detailed glass botanical models of strawberries, peaches, apricots, plums, and pears made by famed glass artist Rudolf Blaschka between the years 1924-1932. On display for the first time in nearly two decades, these models capture—with astonishing realism—the intricacies and strange beauty of fruits in various stages of decay.
Donald H. Pfister, Curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany and Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany, praises the work of Blaschka, “Rudolf Blaschka’s last work centered on the creation of these models of diseased fruits. They are the culmination of his lifelong attention to accuracy and innovation. They illustrate the effects of fungi as agents of disease in plants and point to their importance in agricultural systems.”
Fruits in Decay includes more than twenty glass specimens depicting common agricultural diseases and the effects of fungus such as peach leaf curl, gray mold, brown rot, soft rot, blue mold, shot-hole disease, stony pear, pear scab, fire blight, and leaf spot.
Visitors will be able to see the delicate artistry of these celebrated Blaschka specimens August 31, 2019 through March 1, 2020. Fruits in Decay will replace the collection’s Rotten Apples exhibit, which will remain open until August 25, 2019.
About The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants:
One of Harvard's most famous treasures is the internationally acclaimed Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, popularly called the “Glass Flowers.” This unique collection of more than 4,300 models, representing 780 plant species, was created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son team of Czech glass artists, over five decades from 1886-1936. The Blaschkas were the last in a line of jewelers and glassmakers going back to fifteenth-century Venice.
Professor George Lincoln Goodale, the first director of Harvard’s Botanical Museum, commissioned the collection as a teaching tool and public exhibition. Plant specimens are typically pressed and dried, then mounted on paper herbarium sheets, or they are preserved in liquid. At the time, scientific models were made from papier-mâché or wax, but Goodale wanted a better material to illustrate the plant kingdom.
Goodale saw the Blaschkas’ exceptionally realistic glass models of marine invertebrates in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard and became convinced that this was the ideal medium for representing plants. Goodale traveled to Dresden in 1886 to visit the Blaschkas’ studio and he persuaded them to create glass models of plants for Harvard. The exceptional artistry and workmanship of these pieces proved readily apparent to all who saw them. Mary Lee Ware, a former student of Goodale’s, and her mother, Elizabeth C. Ware, financed the collection and presented it to Harvard University as a memorial to Dr. Charles Eliot Ware, Class of 1834.
The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants officially opened to the public on April 17, 1893 and is one of seventeen galleries at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA, which displays some 12,000 specimens of the University’s vast collections of more than 21 million. Since the Glass Flowers are always in bloom, hundreds of plant species may be studied year-round.
For more information on exhibits, classes, and events, explore hmnh.harvard.edu or call 617.495.3045. For group reservations or guided tours, call 617.495.2341.
About the Harvard Museum of Natural History
With a mission to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the human place in it, the Harvard Museum of Natural History draws on the University’s collections and research to present a historic and interdisciplinary exploration of science and nature. More than 300,000 visitors annually make it the University’s most-visited museum.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located at 26 Oxford Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an eight-minute walk through historic Harvard Yard from the Harvard Square MBTA station. For general information on exhibits, public events, parking, and times for free visitation for Massachusetts residents, visit the website at hmnh.harvard.edu, or call 617-495-3045.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is one of the four Harvard Museums of Science & Culture.