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The moulage makers of the Museum of Wax Moulages Zurich (from 1917)

Lotte Volger

Born in Halle/Saale (Germany) in 1883. As a student of Fritz Kolbow in Berlin, she was entrusted with his technique and the recipe for the moulage mixture. The first director of the Zurich Clinic for Skin and Venereal Diseases, Prof. Bruno Bloch, engaged her in 1918 as the founder of the Zurich Moulage Collection. 
"There is no question that Ms Volger is one of the best, if not the best moulage maker on the continent. I can assert this on the basis of knowledge of all the important moulage collections in Europe; it has been confirmed again and again by foreign colleagues who have visited the clinic." (Bloch, 1925)
Bloch's successor Guido Miescher also promoted the expansion of the collection and ensured its continued existence by supporting courses on moulage techniques.
After her retirement in 1949, Miescher publicly expressed his gratitude to Lotte Volger: "In the 32 years of my work, a collection of moulages has been created which bears comparison in quality with the most famous moulage collections in the world [Vienna, Paris]."
Lotte Volger died in 1956.


Adolf Fleischmann

Born in 1892 in Esslingen/Neckar (D). Adolf Fleischmann worked as a draughtsman and graphic artist in Stuttgart until he went to the war front in 1914, where he was seriously wounded.
From 1917 to 1927 he lived in Zurich, where he earned his living as a scientific draughtsman at the surgical clinic.
Lotte Volger trained him as a moulage maker to produce moulages for the Surgical Clinic. Around 500 of his moulages from this period are preserved in Zurich today.
For Fleischmann, his occupation in Zurich was a means of earning a living; his real interest was in art and painting. 
In 1952 he moved to New York. Before that, he had lived as a migrant and refugee in France, Spain and Italy.
In 1964, Adolf Fleischmann returned to Stuttgart. In 1965, he suffered a stroke that made it impossible for him to draw, but allowed him to make collages. 
Through his works of art, Fleischmann is today considered an early representative of Op Art.
Adolf Fleischmann died on 28 January 1968.


Ruth Beutl-Willi

Born 1919 in Chur (CH). Artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Geneva. Worked for several years as a fashion illustrator. Student and successor of Lotte Volger, who passed on to her the recipe for the moulage mixture developed by Fritz Kolbow.
In addition to producing new moulages, she restored the more than 1000 moulages already in existence. Until then, the moulages were only shown during lectures and were not accessible to the students.
Thanks to Ruth Beutl-Willi's initiative, the former boiler room of the clinic was converted into a moulage demonstration room during her tenure "in response to a compelling need in the interest of the students' education".

Ruth Beutl-Willi was increasingly involved in the manufacture of epitheses for patients with facial disabilities, work that Lotte Volger had already begun.
From 1956 onwards, Ruth Beutl-Willi devoted herself entirely to her family and handed over the work to another Volger student, Elsbeth Stoiber, whom she and Guido Miescher had previously tracked down abroad.
Ruth Beutl-Willi died in 2004.


Elsbeth Stoiber
Born 1924 in Stuttgart (D). Trained as a chemical technician and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. Worked for several years at the Chemical Investigation Office and later as head of an art and auction house in Stuttgart. 1952/53 instruction in moulage making with Lotte Volger in Zurich and takeover of Kolbow's recipe.
Freelance production of moulages of tropical skin and venereal diseases in Madras and Mumbai. Hired by Guido Miescher for Zurich dermatology in 1956. 1963/64 second trip to India on behalf of the Zurich clinic. From 1956 onwards almost exclusively involved in the manufacture of epitheses for patients with face-damage.
In the 1970s, Elsbeth Stoiber saved the moulage collection from disposal, and in May 1993, in addition to an epithesis department, a publicly accessible museum room was set up for the moulage collection at Haldenbachstrasse 14. 
She had already made the moulage technique known to the public earlier. At the end of the 1990s, she finally passed the recipe on to her successor Michael Geiges.
Elsbeth Stoiber died on 25 October 2014.


Museum of Wax Moulages Zurich - A look back at past projects

Founded in 1993, the Museum of Wax Moulages has been a member of the Association of Zurich Museums since 1996 and of the Association of Museums in Switzerland since 1999.  

Since the "Long Night of Museums" was held in Zurich for the first time in 2000, the Museum of Wax Moulages has taken part with small special exhibitions, such as:

•    Spots and stains on the skin
•    How Jupiter and Saturn brought syphilis
•    Sun-tanned skin - dangerously healthy
•    100 years of the Zurich Dermatological Clinic
•    Draw my blemish
•    "Exotic" diseases on the skin
Objects are regularly made available on loan for external exhibitions in Switzerland and abroad.

Major exhibition projects of the past years:

From hereditary bark to foot fungus
Special exhibition 2000, M.L. Geiges

Wax moulages document the change of the disease skin fungus

The perception of diseases by people, but also the diseases themselves, are subject to change over the course of time. Thus, the occurrence, appearance and effects of the disease dermatomycosis have changed considerably over the last 200 years. 
With the wax moulages, the history of skin fungus from the beginnings of dermatology, through intensive research, to today's medical routine could be vividly depicted.

Enemy in the Blood
Special exhibition 2002, M.L. Geiges and J. Egli

Moulages and media in the fight against venereal diseases

In order to inform young adults about the dangers of venereal diseases and to warn them against extra-marital and pre-marital sexual intercourse, exhibitions of wax moulages were shown in public in addition to leaflets and lectures with photographs. Even in the first spoken sound film in Swiss cinemas entitled "Enemy in the Blood", an educational film produced as an exciting feature film, wax moulages were used for medical presentation, but also as a stylistic aid. 

The special exhibition showed the importance of moulages as a medium in the public sphere and compared the educational campaigns around 1930 with the Swiss “Stop Aids” campaign around the year 2000.

Surgery in Wax
Special exhibition 2005, M.L. Geiges and M. Näf

Moulages from the Surgical Clinic of the Cantonal Hospital Zurich, 1919-1927

The exhibition presented a large selection of surgical moulages from the Zurich collection. Many of these moulages were obviously not produced primarily for the lectures, but documented unusual clinical findings or new surgical therapy attempts. Supplementary patient information and the thorough research of published case reports provided moving insights into the personal stories of patients in the medical and social environment at the time.

Three-dimensional Documents
Special exhibition 2005, M.L. Geiges and R. Holzer
Moulages showing animal experiments, self-experiments and medical research

The historical significance of moulages in dermatological research was hardly known until the present. In Zurich there are more than 500 dermatological moulages from animal experiments, from tests on test persons and patients, or from clinical course documentation. Some of these moulages were also used for illustration in research publications. Like the surgical moulages, these unique patient documents today provide an extraordinary look back at medicine and the fates of the people in the first half of the 20th century.

A Hundred Glances at a “Püggeli” [pimple]
New teaching collection from 2010

The three-dimensional wax moulage has re-established itself as a dermatological teaching aid in recent years. In order to present the well-preserved collection in the best possible way to medical students and other health care professionals, an updated teaching collection has been compiled according to the currently valid catalogue of learning objectives for medical studies. It also offers non-medically trained museum visitors a direct insight into diseases of the skin which may interest them from personal experience, or because of reports from acquaintances, or from the media.

Bodies made of wax or pixels?
20 year anniversary of the Museum of Wax Moulages
Special exhibition 2013, M. L. Geiges

The use of wax moulages in medical teaching dates back to 1850. In their attention to detail, wax moulages surpass any other pictorial representation. Ousted by modern pictorial media, they were almost forgotten until the medical historical significance of these unique three-dimensional documents was recognised. The example of medical teaching was used to illustrate the development of two- and three-dimensional image media, in which the realistic wax replica was at the beginning and is present again today. 

Wax or pixels? The answer is: wax and pixels. In a globalised digital media world, real objects are taking on a new significance. In the future, modern scanning and print media will contribute to the conservation and preservation of historical objects and the production of new moulages.

Conservation and restoration

In recent years, the focus has been on improved conservation and on questions of restoration of the delicate wax objects. The Museum of Wax Moulages was involved in the research project of the Dresden Hygiene Museum completed in 2010: "Moulages: valuable handicraft threatened by extinction".  
2011 - 2013 followed the conservation project with the Bern University of the Arts: "Krankheitsbilder in Wachs gegossen - Die Erhaltung der Zürcher Moulagensammlung". 
A project on the 3D-reproduction of moulages followed in 2014. 

Since then, several other projects have been concerned with the restoration and duplication of wax moulages, and with questions of medical history and investigations relating to the Museum of Wax Moulages.

Flyers from past exhibitions