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1154 Insect model and exhibition label, honeycomb, mixed media, made by Dr Auzoux, Paris, France, 1883. Click to enlarge.

Model of honeycomb

This is a model of honeycomb made in France in 1883 by Dr Auzoux for the Museum. In May 1883 the Museum's curator, Joseph Maiden, spent the then substantial sum of 212 pounds on model bees and honeycomb. Made by the Paris workshop of Dr Auzoux, they could be taken apart to show their internal workings. The models formed part of a large display demonstrating methods of bee keeping and processing honey and beeswax.

The bees and honeycomb remained on show for many years. In the 1930s during the …


Object No.


Object Statement

Insect model and exhibition label, honeycomb, mixed media, made by Dr Auzoux, Paris, France, 1883

Physical Description

Model showing a large portion of honeycomb in which may be seen cells for the honey, pollen and eggs (of the queen, drones and workers), with the eggs of the larvae and the grubs shown in various stages of incubation. The model is painted creamish-yellow in colour with darker grey shading to some sections. There are six bent metal nails also protruding from the main side of the model. An old MAAS label accompanies this object.



This model was produced by Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux who was born in Normandy in 1797. He obtained a medical degree in 1818 and was appointed to the surgical department of the Hotel-Dieu, with celebrated Dupuytren, the 'Napoleon of surgery.' The shortage of anatomical teaching materials prompted Auzoux, a year later, to begin experimenting with making models. Models in wax were available but were very expensive. In contrast, papier mache was comparatively inexpensive, stable and able to be easily moulded. Furthermore, it was strong enough to allow each model to be taken apart to show the arrangement of organs. Noting the techniques of Parisian doll and puppet makers, Auzoux developed a paper paste, which allowed papier mache models to harden as a solid, supple, light and durable object. This improved upon the early papier mache techniques of Francois Ameline. Auzoux created models, which could be taken to pieces and reassembled, with each part labelled, showing internal anatomy. He called these models 'Anatomie clastique' and designed them for both lay and expert audiences.

In 1822 he presented a life-sized model of the human pelvis at the Academie Royale de Medicine, and from 1825 commissions from educational institutions flooded in - requesting human, botanical and veterinary models. Auzoux opened a small factory, in Saint Aubin d'Ecrosville, in 1828, soon employing 100 workers. In 1833, Auzoux established a shop in the rue du Poan in Paris. Over the next century and a half the range increased to some 600 models, the majority zoological and botanical with 100 relating to human anatomy. For many years the Auzoux family had a shop in the Rue du medecine in Paris. The shop finally closed in the 1990s and the contents were sold at auction on 22 October 1998.

The models are made with a grey paper pulp, containing granular particles and short fibres. Flax is added to the pulp for models of insect parts, veins and nerves. Auzoux used moulds made from plaster and, later, innovative anatomy moulds for the solid parts of the models. Plaster coats the outside for strength and to provide a base for the paint. The paint is protein-based egg tempera and is protected by a layer of Russian fish glue for models made before 1917, and wood varnish for models made afterwards.

The system of labelling was another of Auzoux's innovations: Labels with pointing hands and numbers show where the parts of the model may be disassembled. Anatomical names of the different model parts form a second order in the hierarchy of the anatomy. A third order is the small round numbered labels appearing on some parts, the associated description of which appeared in the accompanying catalogue.



Purchased from Dr Auzoux 12/05/1883. See Annual Report, purchases 1883, page 5 - 'Enlarged models, in papier-mache of the honey-bee and honey-comb'. Purchased from catalogue and price lists similar to REC11513/1 Acquired 2005/213/1, Dr Auzoux, France, 1920. See description and illustration page 40: "Abeilles (Apis mellifica), grossissement considerable, 8 centimetres de longueur, six formes differentes. Reine, male, ciriere, ouvriere avec propolis, avecpollen, sur lesquelles se retrouvent les caracteres interieurs et exterieurs qui distinguent chaque type; la collection est completee par un gateau de cire, dans les memes proportions, sur lequel on voit des cellules pour le meil, pour le pollon, pour des oeufs, des larves et des nymphes aux differentes epoques de l'incubation. Chaque abeille puet vendue separement. Collection dans un coffret facon acajou."

Dr Auzoux's factory in Paris produced many different animal models, including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, wild and domestic mammals, and botanical specimens. His models were popular for use in teaching and museums developed exhibits comparing the differences between botanical models, human and veterinary structures.


Credit Line

Purchased 1883

Acquisition Date

12 May 1883

Cite this Object


Model of honeycomb 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 23 June 2021, <https://ma.as/1615>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/1615 |title=Model of honeycomb |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=23 June 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Science & Exploration at the Museums Discovery Centre.