Friday mystery object #413 answer

Last week I gave you this cute little Blaschka glass model of a squid to have a go at identifying:

Now that isn’t as easy as it might seem, since the Blaschkas spent over 20 years in their Dresden workshops making models of marine invertebrates, which included 50 different species of cephalopod. Moreover, many of these models did not survive the last 150 or so years, making comparable examples quite hard to find. On top of that, the taxonomy of the animals that the Blaschkas created models for has changed significantly in that time, meaning that everything gets very confusing when even trying to refer to particular models.

As such, when we’re working with Blaschka models we find it useful to refer to the order catalogue numbers established by H.A. Ward in 1878. Of course, that means we also have to rely on the old taxonomy used at the time and we still have problems when referrencing specimens made before 1878, since the Ward numbers hadn’t been established – plus the models offered in the various iterations of the catalogues changed to meet demand.

Much of that demand came from museums and universities all over the world, with the delicate lampworked models being mail ordered. The only way in which the person ordering could know what they were likely to receive in the post was to check out the scientific engravings of the animals that the Blaschkas faithfully reproduced in three dimensions. Usually there would be just a few references for any particular taxonomic group, so it probably wasn’t too difficult to get an idea of what to expect.

In the case of the squids, most were based on illustrations from Mollusques méditerranéens observés, décrits, figurés et chromolithographiés d’après le vivant – 1re partie: Céphalopodes de la Méditerranée by Jean-Baptiste Vérany, 1851, so that provides a good place to start looking.

It takes a while to get your eye in, but there are various details in each of the specimens that makes them more or less likely to be the illustration the model was based on. For this one there are a few that have similar proportions and colouring, but this also has what I like to refer to as the “double chin” (or perhaps “double neck” is more accurate). This feature is absent from most of the illustrations and therefore from most of the Blaschka squid models. Except this one.

Trawling through the Vérany book offers up a very good illustration providing the base for this model, the comparison spoiled only by photography done using my phone, which has a propensity for distorting the extremities of small 3D objects. Here’s what I think we’re dealing with:

This is what Vérany (and the Blaschkas) called Enoploteuthis Owenii and what is now known as the Eye-flash Squid, Midwater Squid or Abralia veranyi (Rüppell, 1844).

In the Ward versions of the Blaschka catalogue from 1878 and 1888 this model is listed under the number 554. So I offer my hearty congratulations to Adam Yates, who got both the species and the number. I hope you enjoyed this wander into the world of Blaschka models – I have other examples that I’ve identified recently, so I might just challenge you with another again soon…

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