Ornamental vases, gilded copper-green lead glass. England, probably decorated in the London workshop of James Giles (1718–1780), about 1765. Each: H. 39.3 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass (2003.2.4A, B; 54.2.4A, B). Photo Credit: Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY.
Through a lens of glass, see what it meant to be ‘modern’ in the 1700s, and what it cost.
Exhibition to include unique visitor experiences, including VR reconstruction of the remarkable spangled-glass drawing room designed by Robert Adam for the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, along with original glass paneling on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) announced its spring exhibition In Sparkling Company: Glass and Social Life in Britain During the 1700s will open May 9, 2020. With exhibition design by Selldorf Architects, In Sparkling Company will present the glittering costume and jewelry, elaborate tableware, polished mirrors, and dazzling lighting devices that delighted the British elite, and helped define social rituals and cultural values of the period.
The exhibition will also include a specially created virtual reality reconstruction of the remarkable and innovative spangled-glass drawing room completed in 1775 for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714-1786), and designed by Robert Adam (1728-1792), one of the leading architects and designers in Britain at the time. An original section of the room (which was dismantled in the 1870s), on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A Museum) in London, will be on view in North America for the first time as part of the exhibition. It will be accompanied by Adam’s original colored design drawings for the interior, on loan from the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.
Courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Designs for the walls of the drawing room at Northumberland House, 1770-1773
“One medium that is often overlooked in scholarly discussions of 18th-century art, design and material culture is glass,” said Christopher L. Maxwell, Curator of European Glass at CMoG, who has organized the exhibition. “In Britain, developments in glass formulas and manufacturing techniques resulted in new and better types of glass, from windowpanes and mirrors to heavy, clear ‘crystal’ tableware, perfectly suited to the tastes and needs of Britain’s growing urban elite whose wealth derived from new enterprises in finance, manufacture, international trade and colonial expansion. In Sparkling Company will demonstrate the many functions and meanings of glass in the exuberant social life of the 1700s.”
The smooth, ‘polished’ and reflective properties of glass perfectly embodied 18th-century ideals of sociability, in what is considered by many as the ‘age of politeness.’ As urban centers grew in size and prosperity, sociability became ever more sophisticated. The terms ‘polite’ and ‘polished’ were often used interchangeably in the numerous etiquette manuals eagerly read by those wishing to take their place in the polite world. Examples of such literature will be displayed alongside fashionable glass of the period, including embroidered costume, mirrors, a chandelier, cut glass lighting and tableware, and paste jewelry that accessorized and defined the lives of the 'polished’ elite.