This is an anatomical model of a silkworm made of papier-mache, metal and plaster. It was made by Louis Auzoux in France and purchased by the Museum in 1884. The then curator of the Museum, Joseph Maiden, believed there was great potential for silk cultivation in New South Wales. An extensive display was made of the models which featured different types of silkworms and cocoons, together with production methods and examples of the finished product. Before being displayed in the Museum, this silkworm model 'attracted a great deal of attention' at a Royal Society 'coversazione'. Its five sections can be removed one by one 'to show the internal economy of the worm'.
Papier-mache models were introduced in the 1800s as they were more robust than the earlier wax models. It also allowed craftsmen to fashion models in sections which could be removed in layers as if a real dissection were taking place. Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux was a pioneer of this form of modelling who set up a workshop in his home town of Saint Aubin d'Ecrosville in 1827. His medical background enabled him to make highly accurate models while his experiments with papier-mache resulted in the development of a variety of finishes which incorporated plaster, fabric and glass. The other aspect of Auzoux's success was his application of moulding techniques which allowed him to reproduce his models.
A common feature of many of Auzoux's models is the use of paint on a thin plaster layer which covered the papier-mache. Studio artists were employed to add the finishing touches using egg tempura which gave a shiny gloss to the finished work. Iron supports were included to reinforce the delicate areas of some models and metal was sometimes used to connect separate parts.
This zoological model of a silk worm was manufactured by the firm run by Dr. Louis Auzoux. It is segmented to allow the removal of the exterior to reveal the organs and tissues inside the silkworm and was made between 1865 and 1884. Its exaggerated size allowed students to easily examine tiny details while the painted colours were often closer to life than the specimens preserved in alcohol which tended to lose their colour. Dr. Auzoux's models were acclaimed throughout Europe and this model was purchased from the German dealer Chrétien Vetter in 1884 some four years after Auzoux had died.
Geoff Barker, March, 2007
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Scholtz, Gerhard (2005), Better than the real thing? Models - The Third Dimension of Science.
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