Leopold Rudolf Blaschka Loligo bianconii Ommastrephes Loligo berthelotii Rakow Research Library Corning Museum of Glass

This Exhibition Has Ended

September 2, 2017
December 24, 2017
In the Moak, Class of 1953, and Schaenen Galleries, Floor 2L

The historic collection of glass marine animals by Leopold Blaschka (1822–1895) and his son Rudolf (1857–1939) was acquired by Cornell for use in teaching in the sciences. This exhibition will feature a selection of these unique sculptures and the Blaschkas’ drawings following a 2016 exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass

Descending from a family of jewelers and glassmakers, Leopold Blaschka created glass flowers that were exhibited at the Dresden Botanical Garden pavilion in 1863. That exhibition led to a commission to produce invertebrate models, which he based on naturalist Philip Henry Gosse’s drawings published in Actinologia Britannica: A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals. In 1876 Leopold was joined in the business by his son Rudolf and soon glasswork commissions developed into a lucrative business selling models to individuals, museums, and schools all over the world.

In 1882, at the request of Professor John Henry Comstock and with the support of President Andrew Dickson White, Cornell acquired 570 Blaschka glass sea animals to use in teaching biology. After years of disuse and damage, the collection was put on deposit at the Corning Museum of Glass for conservation, a project overseen today by Professor Drew Harvell, a marine biologist in Cornell’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the curator of the Blaschka Collection. These exquisitely crafted models, which preserve extinct and endangered animals, provide a rich and irreplaceable resource for current and future generations of students to experience the natural world from an aesthetic, historical, and scientific point of view.

From the Darkness of the Sea includes a selection of Cornell’s precious glass marine animals, many of which are newly restored. The glass models are shown alongside Blaschka drawings on loan from the Corning Museum of Glass and video excerpts of the living examples of these beautiful sea creatures. Today researchers at Cornell use the collection as a time capsule to document marine invertebrates still living in our oceans today. The story of the creation of these glass models and today’s fragile ocean life stimulates broad discussion of pressing contemporary issues such as climate change, warming oceans, and rising sea levels.


This exhibition was curated by Nancy E. Green, the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of European and American Art, Prints & Drawings, 1800–1945, at the Johnson, and generously supported by Susan E. Lynch.