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Merkelbach & Co. Anatomical Eye Model (poss. by Boch & Steger), c.1880s

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Anatomical eye model in three pieces, Merkelbach & Co. Amsterdam, c.1880s. Merkelbach & Co. sold visual educational material. This model of the human eye is labeled Merkelbach & Co., but it resembles models from Leipzig, Germany, by Boch & Steger.

According to his granddaughter Mies Waltman in an interview about the family with the Dutch organization Stichting Tijdgeest, Merkelbach traveled to fairs in Leipzig to purchase the most technologically advanced items for his wide range of clients.This is possibly one of those items, sourced during his earliest trips.

This model has some chips, especially on the back of the optic nerve. The right post holding the top in place is missing. But definitely functioning, vivid, and impressive.

Measures 5 H x 9 W x 9” D. Weighs 1 lb. 10 ¾ oz.


More history on this piece:

The co-owner of Merkelbach & Co., J.W. Merkelbach, was the proprietor of a cabinet of curiosities in Amsterdam that still exists today.

Merkelbach's granddaughter shares photos and her family's history on Stichting Tijdgeest (translation: Sewing Together Zeitgeist), a Dutch organization that actively seeks to record family histories in the Netherlands. See all of the photos and her story HERE.

Mies Waltman spoke of her grandfather Johannes Wilhelm Merkelbach saying: 

He is the founder of the company Merkelbach and Co. Since 1845 the company existed as Merkelbach. Co. was added around 1890; this stood for "Opoe" Roelofs, former innkeeper-turned-foster mother of grandmother Merkelbach-van Schaik. Because of her financial contribution, he was able to visit the Leipziger Messe every year, where he bought new articles for the business (Bazar on the Nieuwendijk). For example magic lanterns, steam engines, trains, velocipedes, etc. Among his customers were many schoolmasters who had money to spend for the "laudable resignation" of the students, and were looking for something other than the standard book or sewing box. They asked my grandfather whether he could bring things for the visual education, which came into vogue at the time.

One of the visual education items from these generously-funded trips to Leipzig, Germany, was most certainly this eye model. We at The Curio sell other items mentioned here, including a Magic Lantern Slide Projector (See link HERE).

What is not mentioned by Mies Waltman is that her grandfather Johannes Wilhelm Merkelbach (d. 1922) was also also an early Dutch photographer and cinematographer.

In 1896, he and his assistant M.H. Laddé founded the Eerst Nederlandsch Atelier tot het vervaardigen van Films voor de Bioscoop en Cinematograaf. This was the first Dutch film production company, hot on the heels of pioneering film company Gaumont in Paris. Their first film was a slapstick comedy, "Gestoorde hengelaar" or "The Disturbed Fisherman." It is unfortunately lost.

Merkelbach's other work can be seen at the museum EYE Film Institute Netherlands (Link HERE). 



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