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Dr. Auzoux founded a factory in the 1820s to produce his papier-mâché models. Here the models were sculpted, painted and varnished, often using internal metal structures to support them.

Auzoux's model factory

Prototype metal structure of the large and small starfish models
Image 1 Metalwork used to create the models of the large starfish and the small starfish; mid-19th century (Wh.5355.14). Click for larger image.

In 1828 Dr. Auzoux founded a factory to produce models in his small hometown St.Aubin d'Ecrosville in Normandy, France, where he employed 60-100 workers of all ages and both sexes, whose main tasks were the moulding and painting of the models.

After an initial prototype of a model was sculpted by Auzoux himself, moulds were taken that served as the basis for potentially unlimited numbers of casts. Casts were produced by inserting layers of a secret papier-mâché mixture, containing cork and clay as well as paper and glue. For the upright models of humans and large animals and plants, internal metal structures were used to increase their stability. The papier-mâché parts were joined on to this metal core and were then painted, labelled, and varnished.

Metal cores

Prototype metal structure showing the development of a fern.
Image 2 Metalwork used to create the model of 'development of a fern'; mid-19th century (Wh.5355.17). Click for larger image.

The Whipple Museum has a collection of 30 prototype metal structures for models made by the Auzoux factory. All have the metalwork attached to a wooden backboard, alongside text showing the structure used for each animal or plant model.

Amongst the metalwork owned by the Museum are the structures for a May beetle, a starfish (Image 1), and the development of a fern (Image 2).

Factory welfare

Unlike earlier wax anatomical models, which were made by highly skilled craftsmen, the new papier-maché models could be produced in large numbers by unskilled workers.

Dr. Auzoux followed new ideas on workers' welfare and set up a rigid set of rules and fines to ban vices like cursing and alcohol from the factory floor. He also improved hygiene and health among his employees providing them with a gymnasium and basic instruction in anatomy.

Auzoux believed that care for the body improved an individual's physical and moral wellbeing, as well their social progress.

Anna Maerker

Anna Maerker, 'Inside Auzoux's models', Explore Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge, 2008.

Next Article: Human Models

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