Joshua Sofaer

Flower Power

My journey around the North West included a trip to Gallery Oldham, where I had the chance to view, amongst other things, some amazing plant models.

The collections are in-between casings as the historic building is being renovated, so these accurate giants are mostly crowded together in their vitrine garden. Here a close-up of the Nasturtium shows the craftsmanship. They are one of my favourite flowers. They both look at taste great and I remember them eating them when playing outside as a kid.

They are in fact made from a papier-mâché base, with other materials added to give detail and texture: wood, paper, cotton, rattan, cane pulp, glass beads, feathers and gelatine. They are then painted with oils.

(Clockwise from top left.) Mignonette, Narcissus, Snowdrop, and Poppy.

(Clockwise from top left.) Nasturtium, Potato (who knew?), Brendal Hemlock and Wild Cabbage.

Goosefoot or Fat Hen.

The models were crafted in the late 1800s by Robert Brendel and his son Reinhold in Breslau and Berlin. They were made as teaching aids in a time when flowers were especially seasonal and macro photography did not exist. They were purchased by the museum in the 1920s with a bequest, for the edification of the people of Oldham.

Heather. (Yes, I too thought it looked like a tulip.)

Erm… sorry… I didn’t make a note of these.

Common Horsetail, said to be the oldest living vascular plants, related to plants that were in the Carboniferous period, 359 million years ago, and still causing gardeners a headache as they stubbornly persist!

Green Winged Orchis.

Wild Pansy.

Honeysuckle.

As with the other models, Iris would be the pride of any catwalk.

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