The intricate sculptures are now on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
harvard university apple exhibit
Credit: Courtesy of President and Fellows of Harvard College

Rotten fruits no longer need to be restricted to the compost bin—now, thanks to a new exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, they also count as fine art. The exhibition, Rotten Apples: Botanical Models of Diversity and Disease, features glass models of rotting apples infected with various fungi and bacteria. Also included are models of rotting and scabbing plums, pears, and apricots. The exhibition is part of Harvard's Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants (try saying that three times fast).

The models were made by Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolf Blaschka, glass artists from Dresden, Germany who were active between 1887 and 1936. Rotten fruits may seem like a bit of a gross subject matter for such a beautiful and delicate art form, but there's something oddly compelling about these sickly creations. Part of the appeal is just how lifelike these models are: as Scott E. Fulton, a conservator working on restoring these models, observed to the Harvard Gazette, "The details are so natural—right down to the capillaries on the leaf." The models were created at the request of Harvard botany professor George Lincoln Goodale as teaching aids, because real specimens weren't always easy to come by and because wax and paper mache models simply weren't as accurate.

rotten apples exhibit
Credit: Courtesy of President and Fellows of Harvard College

Manager of the exhibition, Jennifer Brown, pointed out that the strangeness of the glasswork is a huge part of the draw. As she told the Gazette, "People love the Glass Flowers, but this makes the exhibit more dynamic, and gives them more reason to come back."

You can check out the exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History at 26 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138. While you're there, you can also see the Blaschkas' sea creature models, featuring a variety of tentacled creations, models of Nemo-friendly anemones, and, best of all, nudibranchs. (If you don't know what a nudibranch is, look it up immediately.)