Wax Fruit Collection




The Wax Fruit collection includes over 1800 realistic wax fruit and vegetable models. The majority of these were made by artists employed by the Industrial and Technological Museum between 1873 and 1960. The collection features over 50 different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Accompanying the models are artist sketch books of the earliest pieces and the moulds used to make them.

The Wax Fruit Collection includes over 1800 wax fruit and vegetable models. Most of the models were made between 1873 and 1960 by artists specifically employed by the Museum. Accompanying the models are the moulds used to make them and artist sketch books of the earliest pieces. The creation of wax models of fruit and vegetables highlights the Museum's active role in documenting and promoting economic and horticultural development in Victoria. With the beginning of European settlement the survival of new settlers in Australia depended upon their ability to grow food in an unknown environment. Collecting and experimenting with both native and introduced plants became an important part of the establishment and progress of the colonies. The design of fruit and vegetable wax models reflects the earliest collection interests of Museum Victoria, and its active role as an educator: the idea of learning through simple observation helps explain the remarkable realism of the first wax fruit and vegetables produced by the Museum. The Industrial ; Technological Museum was established in 1870. This collection is part of Museum Victoria's Economic Botany Collection, developed to encourage trade and industry within and between the colony of Victoria and other parts of the British Empire. Many models were used to promote the horticultural opportunities of the Victorian colony at intercolonial and international exhibitions in Sydney, London, Paris, Philadelphia and Calcutta. Museum artists in Melbourne became world experts in this specialised trade and were able to offer advice to other museums around the world. Trained modellers, mainly women, worked in the Museum laboratory and employed special methods to capture a specimen's natural features in life-like detail. This high standard of recreation gives the collection of wax models its scientific value. As a scientific tool, the models were used to record which conditions affected the quality of the fruit, and which type of processing was suitable. Every detail of the original was recorded, including mould, bruises, and the colour subtleties of seasonal hues. Models documented healthy, diseased and unusual examples of fruit and vegetables. The models were based on specimens sourced directly from farmers and the Victorian Department of Agriculture. Over 50 types of fruits and vegetables are represented including: apple, apricot, arrowroot, artichoke, avocado, banana, beans, boyensberry, capsicum, carrot, cassava, cherry, coconut, crab apple, cantalope, cucumber, egg plant, fig, garlic, grapes, hops, pineapple, jackfruit, cumquat, lemon, lime mandarin, mango, medlar, mulberry, nectarine, onion, orange, passionfruit, pea, peach, pear, plum, potato, prickly pear, quince, radish, shaddock, sugar beet, sweet potato, tangelo, tomato, turnip, walnut and yam. With over 620 cultivars of apples, 94 pears and 135 plums the collection is an important record of biodiversity; in recent years it has been used to identify rare and endangered cultivars. The Museum placed the models on permanent display for the education of the general public, particularly students and horticulturalists. With the introduction of colour photography in the 1960s, wax models were no longer needed for recording fruit and vegetable specimens. However, the collection of wax fruit and vegetables remains an important reference for contemporary interests in biodiversity, organic agriculture and historic research.

Please direct access requests via Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre


1873-1960; Agriculture; Artists; Economic Botany; Exhibitions: Philadelphia Centennial International, 1876; Horticulture; Museum History; Orchardists; Wax Fruit Models; Wax Fruit Moulds; Wax Modelling

Coverage Spatial

Paris, France; Victoria, Australia; Calcutta, India; Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; London, England, United Kingdom; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Philadelphia, United States of America

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2011-03-31 18:32