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The collection of wax fruit modelled by Father Constantin Keller

The collection of wax fruit modelled by Father Constantin Keller

P. Constantin Keller (1778–1864) extensively studied the various varieties of fruits!

Constantin Keller was born in Graz in 1778. He entered Admont Benedictine Abbey in 1796, assuming the monastic name ‘Thaddäus’. In 1801 he took Holy Orders. In 1810 he was appointed pastor of Mautern in Liesingtal, subsequently becoming parish priest in Gröbming in 1824. It was here that he became acquainted with Archduke John of Austria. Determined to reform agricultural practices in Styria, Keller began to promote the cultivation of fruit in the Styrian Oberland and held numerous lectures. He created fruit tree nurseries in Mauten and Gröbming and distributed the tree grafts grown there free of charge to local farmers. From 1819 to 1824, he was director of the agricultural branches of the Austrian Agricultural Society of Styria founded by Archduke John in Trofaiach and from 1824 in Gröbming.

Keller extensively studied the various varieties of fruits and made highly realistic wax models of these in the period 1815 – 1840. The models are actually hollow and are only wax shells. To create them, he first prepared plaster casts of the top half and lower half of the piece of fruit he wished to recreate, and then coated the inner sides of the casts with a thin layer of wax. The wax shells were strengthened internally to provide a stable copy of the original piece of fruit. These were then painted externally and genuine leaves and stalks were added to give a finishing touch. Even tiny blemishes caused by insects and areas of decay were reproduced. These extraordinarily life-like wax fruits are evidence of the many fruit varieties that were once grown locally and these are today being rebred, although often considerable effort is required.

In addition to the varieties grown in his own tree nurseries, he also established the varieties grown in the nursery of the Joanneum in Graz. He used his models to help provide advice to the customers of the nurseries and so that he could show them what the various varieties looked like. Today, 243 of his models survive. A series of fruit models that he prepared for the cellar of the Joanneum have since disappeared.

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