Eyeglasses and surrondings

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EYEGLASSES AND SURROUNDINGS Extraordinary stories of revolutionary inventions The collections of the Museo dell’Occhiale in Pieve di Cadore

FABIANO Editore


EYEGLASSES AND SURROUNDINGS Extraordinary stories of revolutionary inventions The collections of the Museo dell’Occhiale in Pieve di Cadore



EYEGLASSES AND SURROUNDINGS Extraordinary stories of revolutionary inventions

The collections of the Museo dell’Occhiale in Pieve di Cadore

text by Alessandra Albarello introduction by Michelangelo Pistoletto

with editorial contribution by Laura Zandonella, curator of the Pieve di Cadore Museum

FABIANO Editore


on the cover from the top: Pendants called “Lunettes Breloques” which “Les Incroyables” wore pinned to their waistcoat; Emilio Pucci sunglass model from the late 1970’s-early 1980’s with clear, colourful plastic tinted frame; arched copper eyeglasses with violet lenses, Germany, late 17th-early 18th century; detail of a Chinese glasses case from approximately 1880.

Text Alessandra Albarello

Photos Baggiofotostudio, Pieve di Cadore (BL)

Museo dell’Occhiale – Pieve di Cadore

Eyewear Museum Archives

President

ANFAO and MIDO Archives

Vittorio Tabacchi

Contributors:

Curator

Laura Zandonella and Ivana Canaider

Laura Zandonella

Copyright 2011

Executive Committee

Fabiano Editore

Vittorio Tabacchi, President

Reg. San Giovanni 40 – Canelli (AT)

Primo Barbon

Tel. 0141 827801 – Fax 0141 827830

Luigino Boito

e-mail: editore@fabianoeditore.it

Francesco Gili

www.fabianoeditore.it

Renato Sopracolle

The Authors and Publisher disclaim any responsibility for errors in this text. All rights reserved. Total or partial reproduction is forbidden.

Graphics and printing: Fabiano Group Srl Reg. San Giovanni 40 – Canelli (AT)

Layout: Nadia Mirialdo ISBN 978-88-89629-93-2 Printed: December 2011


Summary 07

Preface by Vittorio Tabacchi

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Introduction by Michelangelo Pistoletto

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part one – The Museum

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The Past. The Present. And, above all, the Future

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The history of a museum is the history of its collections. And of a woman

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part two – The origins of eyewear

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From the bridge to the side arms. From Ugo di Provenza to Camillo Benso, count of Cavour

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Points of view and support

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Philosophy, science and religion. Beyond the visible

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Queen Margherita and the first factory in Cadore

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Intriguing messages and valuable gifts

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Travelling toward modernity

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part three –Wunderkammer - The collector’s room

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The art of seeing (and not seeing)

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When a glance becomes an “Objet de vertu” (Object of Virtue)

127

An eye for an eye: symbolism and representation

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part four – The 20th century and contemporary eyeglasses

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1920’s-1930’s

141

1940’s-1950’s

151

1960’s-1970’s

159

1980’s-1990’s

171

afterword

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Some reflections around the Eyewear Museum



Preface My relationship with the Museum began even before its creation, and was born from the passion I have always had for collecting, and especially from my strong sense of belonging to the area. This area, “Cadore,” has become the main stage of an exemplary story of “Made in Italy” production, since back when the first Italian eyewear manufacturer was inaugurated in Calalzo di Cadore in 1878. The Eyewear Museum, part of a context so sensitive to the culture of this object, has since become the undisputed symbol of an industry that has been able to transform tradition in creative energy, drawing from the past to place itself within the new contemporary dynamics of an international market. From that first company which, at the end of the 1800’s was even visited by Queen Margherita of Savoy, many more companies were created in the area. Companies which, thanks to their know-how, have been able to successfully establish the “Made in Italy” concept with pride all over the world, even interpreting the labels and most prestigious international fashion and design brands. More protected compared to Venice, but still included in the historic fabric that made the lagoon city unique, Cadore has since become the perfect stage to represent one of the greatest inventions in history: eyeglasses. A logical consequence of a glass-making culture, whose roots in this area go back to the 13th century, as evidenced by the ancient Venetian “Capitolari delle Arti Veneziane” arts publication, dated 1284. Even if eyeglasses are the absolute protagonists of the museum, there are other objects that represent the meaning and symbolism of vision. The evolution of eyewear and everything related to vision has no boundaries. These have always tried to find their sources of inspiration in other areas, from design to art, fashion to music, thus prompting the contours of a varied, lively and complex cultural stage, of which they are the real stars. With more than four thousand pieces presented in rotating exhibits, the Eyewear Museum has, over time, from the fifteenth century to present day, become a point of reference and documentation, especially important for those who are interested in the history of fashion and costume. But it has also become the symbol of the whole Italian eyewear industry which was born and continues to grow here, making its voice heard worldwide and thus favouring its international vocation. Vittorio Tabacchi

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Introduction I first came to the Pieve di Cadore eyewear Museum in 2003 for the exhibition of my works entitled “the eye is the mirror”, which was prepared within the museum itself and was dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the Belluno eyewear district. I was thrilled to stroll down those halls full of precious objects, which sparkled and shone as they led me through the rich and fascinating history of eyewear. While observing my “Reflective” paintings exhibited there, I could sense the close relationship between their meaning and that which is inherent to every detail of the museum’s contents. First of all, let’s say that I’m a “visual” artist, a term which replaces that of “painter” when the artistic instruments come to include more modern technologies, such as photography, video or even lasers. My primary instrument is the mirror: a tool which infinitely expands the sphere of the imagination, but also confines it to the point that it focuses directly upon the eye when brought as close as possible to the mirror itself. In an objective and practical sense, it’s the phenomenology of vision that becomes a component of art, while maintaining the concept of “representation” intact. But leaving the image of the eye aside, with scientific logic it is possible to follow a path that penetrates into the eyeball all the way to the brain and to encounter a phenomenon similar to that which is described above. The optical photoreceptors translate light into electric fluxes that reach the brain and project the images into it, as is the case with a mirror: the eye, therefore, is the tool that makes the mind reflect. This establishes an endless reflective loop: the eye is the mirror of the objects and the mind “reflects”, or rather thinks of the objects, producing actions that reflect the will of the mind itself. By placing a lens between the eye and the world, we can artificially correct the natural defects of vision. By placing lenses upon lenses, we increasingly distance ourselves from the sphere of that which is visible. Telescopes transport us into the cosmos, while microscopes lead us into the microcosm. We are in the eyewear museum, and we can take pathways that are both spatial as well as temporal. We run back and forth from ancient history to the present day, following the optical “vehicles” on display; we take in the news from yesterday as well as that of today; we observe the dressings that surrounded and adorned the lenses in the old days and compare them with the whirlwind of images reflected in modern lenses. But it is the frames themselves that embody these delicate transparencies, that help us to recognize the styles and fashions, that allow us to appreciate the creativity and imagination of such true talents, that make us feel the emotion and the surprise of discovering the incredible ingenuity expressed by so many of these objects. The science of eyeglasses is one that inspires the imagination to the point that, in many cases, it leads to true poetry in terms of the shapes, lines and colours. It is said that the eye is the mirror of the soul. I would add that eyeglasses themselves give soul to the eyes, bringing them to life by adding expression to the face. Eyeglasses are like the soul in that they can generate profound emotions, such as shame or enthusiasm. Eyeglasses can be something behind which to hide or can otherwise be flaunted in a provocative and aggressive manner. They can be a display of vanity or represent a sense of dignity. Eyeglasses are always elements that stand between ourselves and others, thus rendering them an intimate and personal, yet social phenomenon. The educational function of the eyewear museum must therefore be recognized as one of its most relevant features. Michelangelo Pistoletto 9



part one The Museum The Past. The Present. And, above all, the Future. The history of a museum is the history of its collections. And of a woman



EYEGLASSES AND SURROUNDINGS

The Museum

The Past. The Present. And, above all, the Future. A building of glass and steel, counterpart to the old wood and stone home dwelling of painter Tiziano Vecellio (1480/1490-1576) and to the bitter-sweet landscape of the Dolomites, which reflect iridescent and mutable on its surface. The Eyewear Museum, with its shining modernity, challenges the memory of these places, imposing its sophisticated hightech architecture like a natural bridge between the past, present and future. Inside, a combination of materials evoke traditional craftsmanship and bold colours define the bright space. Where the compelling story is told of one of the most important industries in the world, born right here in these geographically difficult areas which were, however, particularly rich in water sources, precious in generating the energy that initially fed the machines. The only national eyewear museum to be bound by the Superintendence for Historical, Artistic and Ethno-Anthropological Heritage, it was inaugurated in 1990 in Tai di Cadore, to then be transferred in 2007 to its new home at the Palazzo Cosmo building in Pieve di Cadore. The museum was set up here by, among others, architect Alessandro Mendini, not new to major museum projects carried out all over the world. The leitmotif of the museum is naturally sight and all the symbolism that belongs to the simple, instinctive act of looking and not just seeing. Over 4,000 pieces from the 15th century to present day are exhibited in rotation along a path that winds through the two floors of the museum. The exhibits include eyeglasses, books, prints and ancient documents, telescopes, binoculars, optical instruments, pieces of art, votive offerings and much, more, recreating the grandeur of a complex, transverse world, whose evolution is closely tied not only to technological and industrial but also cultural progress. One curious piece of interest: one of the rooms, seem from above, incorporates the structure of the optical sections of a corrective lens.

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T h e Pa s t . T h e P r e s e n t . A n d , a b o v e a l l , t h e F u t u r e .

The black and white photos here are especially poignant. Evidence of a past that seems so very long ago. Women and men working intently on foot pedal welding machines, bare factories, intense looks and snippets of life made of sacrifice, but also the satisfaction of becoming part of history. The collection is enriched with new pieces every year, following the natural evolution of a museum and of the sector, of which Cadore in particular in Italy in general have always been the beating heart. An industry that has never stopped growing, thanks to the support of ANFAO (The

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The Museum

Italian Association of Optical Goods Manufacturers), created in 1954 and which, since 1970, has organised Mido (International Optics, Optometry and Ophthalmology Exhibition), a trade fair which still today retains its international leadership in the field. The Eyewear Museum, creating synergies and collaborations with other museums, remains a living place which continues to dialogue with its surrounding territory, involving it in a lively and vibrant cultural debate that has lasted for many centuries.

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T h e Pa s t . T h e P r e s e n t . A n d , a b o v e a l l , t h e F u t u r e .

On this and the preceding page: some historical images from the 1940’s and 1950’s of the Cadore eyeglass and eyeglass case factories. On the next page: a group of young Cadore women travelling to work by bicycle, 1954.

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capitolo




The history of a museum is the history of its collections. And of a woman

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The Museum

The story of a museum is the history of its collections. And of a woman

The title page of the book “Lunettes et lorgnettes de jadis” by Madame Alfred Heymann, published in 1911 by Parisian publishing house J. Leroy et Cie in limited edition of 300 copies.

The history of a collection is almost always a story of passion. Like that of Madame Alfred Heymann, a lady who lived between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and belonged to the Parisian upper class. Perhaps also portrayed by Klimt, in 1911 she wrote a book “Lunettes et lorgnettes de jadis”, a limited edition with only 300 copies published by Parisian editor J. Leroy et Cie. Already, though, in 1900, part of her extraordinary collection of spectacles, Lorgnette eyeglasses, monocles, fans, theatre bifocals, telescopes and other types appeared in the book “Les lorgnettes” by Jean Robiquet, curator of the Musée Carnavalet of Paris, created for the important Universal Exhibition of Paris of that same year. Journeying along the mysterious roads of destiny, and probably also through the hands of a Spanish collector, some pieces of that legendary collection, which many fabled over time as it suddenly dissolved into thin air in 1925, were divided up between various collectors and museums, with some also arriving at the Eyewear Museum in Pieve di Cadore. It was most likely the famous Belgian optician Georges Bodart who purchased them. His collection of about 1,600 pieces was later sold to the Museum in 1987 and represents the core and starting point of this wonderful adventure. It was, once again, passion which defined the history of yet another important collection: that of Enrico De Lotto, physician and scholar who, after having curated an exposition on the history of eyewear in 1956 (year in which he also wrote the book “From Nero’s Emerald to the Cadore Glasses”), revived again in 1959, expressed his dream of creating a national eyewear museum. A dream made possible after years thanks to the perseverance and initiative of Vittorio Tabacchi. In reality, all museums are all an amalgam of many collections, donations, purchases sometimes made following an emotional instinct, other times by establishing a precise historical path. The Eyewear Museum does not escape this same logic and, over time, a “layering” of pieces of various origins has happened, including those of Eastern eyewear collections of antiquarian Luca Moioli, or of Parisian optician Jean Bernard Weiss, acquired in the 90’s. Last, in chronological order, those donated in 2001 by Giuseppe Del Favero Calalzo di Cadore, which covers a wide range of time, focusing its attention on Italian and foreign iconic pieces from the 1900’s and the collection of Ottica Giacobbi received in 2009. The Eyewear Museum has always maintained a strong bond not only with companies but has also become the symbol of an important tradition, which chose as its home the region of Veneto and, in particular, Cadore. Representing memories, but also the future. And the past, but also the present.

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The Museum

On the previous page: an image taken from the book “Lunettes et lorgnettes de jadis� where some rare items that belonged to Madame Alfred Heymann were illustrated. On this page: two pieces probably from the Madame Alfred Heymann collection, now exhibited at the Eyewear Museum. From the top: a precious shor t telescope in car ved ivor y (France, approximately 1720) and a necessity kit in enamelled brass, silver, mother of pearl and gold (England, early 19 th centur y).

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part two

The origins of eyewear From the bridge to the side arms. From Ugo di Provenza to Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour Points of view and support Philosophy, science and religion. Beyond the visible Queen Margherita and the first factory in Cadore Intriguing messages and valuable gifts Travelling toward modernity


From t he bridge to th e s i d e a rms . F r o m Ug o d i P r o v e n z a t o Ca m i l l o Be n so , Co u n t o f Ca v o u r

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EYEGLASSES AND SURROUNDINGS

The origins of eyewear

From the bridge to the side arms. From Ugo di Provenza to Camillo Benso, count of Cavour

Clockwise from the top: detail of iron swivel head eyeglasses, Italy, late 16 th and early 17 th centur y; folding eyeglasses in tor toiseshell and silver with their case in galuchat, silver and wood, France, late 16 th centur y, early 17 th centur y; rare arched leather eyeglasses, Germany, built at the turn of the 16 th and 17 th centuries.

In 1300, a special entry prohibiting the counterfeiting of crystal and lenses, at the time called “roidi da ogli” (discs for the eyes) and which differed from magnifying glasses once called “lapides ad legendum”, was added to the “Glassware” part of the Venetian “Capitolari delle Arti Veneziane” arts publication, published in 1284. The competition, at a time when nothing existed and therefore everything was yet to be discovered and invented, was relentless and perhaps unfair. In the 13th century, glass production was transferred to the island of Murano under the pretext of being able to better control the safety level of an activity that made use mainly of fire, and therefore considered potentially dangerous if worked too close to residential areas. This is the official explanation. In actuality, although there were not then the same sophisticated means of communication that we have today, news spread rapidly, also because mythical figures were beginning to take shape. Part merchants, part explorers and travellers, like Marco Polo who, following the Silk Route and the flourishing family business in 1271, arrived in China only to return to Italy 17 years later. Personalities who could therefore easily reveal their findings, nullifying years and years of research, experiments and suffering. Protecting such an extraordinary invention was therefore an almost moral obligation for a city that was already so advanced in terms of business, like the city of Venice in the 13th and 14th centuries. Naturally, the study of optical phenomena had already begun long ago and far away. Lenses and eyeglasses were only the culmination of a meeting of civilizations and scholars that were geographically and culturally poles apart from each other, who consulted the writings of others.

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From t he bridge to th e s i d e a rms . F r o m Ug o d i P r o v e n z a t o Ca m i l l o Be n so , Co u n t o f Ca v o u r

From the top: another version of swivel head horn eyeglasses, France, late 16 th centur y; arched whalebone model, a par ticularly flexible material, Germany, mid-17 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

From the top: swivel head silver eyeglasses complete with trefoil case in wood and paper, France, approximately 1750; folding eyeglass case in brass and mother of pearl, delicately engraved with floral patterns, France, 18 th centur y.

Among the first were the Persian Avicenna (980-1037) and the Egyptian Alhazen (965-1038), often accused of resorting to alchemy, an accusation that had nothing to do with the validity of their findings but rather with the prejudices of the time against those who from different cultures and religions. In fact, the first magnifying glass lenses in rock and beryllium crystal that circulated in the convents of religious orders were based on studies of optics of Alhazen. The clause of the “Capitolariâ€? confirms, though, that optical lenses and, consequentially, eyeglasses, were actually born in Italy at the end of the 13th century, probably favoured by the Venetian mastery of glass-making. The last workshop in Venice in the district of Sam Trovaso was then closed in 1796. Another confirmation on the power of this invention comes to us from the first pictorial representations of personalities with eyeglasses, like Ugo di Provenza who, in the fresco by Tommaso da Modena in 1352, wears a swivel head model, that only an obsequious and posthumous representation of a cardinal could remain as such: suspended on his nose, without being held up by a hand, while he is quietly writing. In the same series of paintings, cardinal Nicolò di Rouen consults a sacred text using a magnifying glass, this represented also for the first time in a painting. Instead, San Gerolamo, considered protector of the spectacle, portrayed in 1480 in his studio portrait by Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) in the fresco found

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From t he bridge to th e s i d e a rms . F r o m Ug o d i P r o v e n z a t o Ca m i l l o Be n so , Co u n t o f Ca v o u r

From the top: a precious specimen of arched eyeglasses called Nuremberg glasses, from the name of their original city, made in tor toiseshell and characterised by elaborate trefoil on the bridge, Germany, late 17 th centur y; the bridge, called the “five blades� characterises this horn model, giving it a good degree of flexibility, England, early 18 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

From the top: arched copper eyeglasses with violet lenses, Germany, late 17 th-early 18 th centur y. The circles have doubled at the height of the nose with silk thread; silver glasses with double arched bridge, France, late 18 th centur y.

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From t he bridge to th e s i d e a rms . F r o m Ug o d i P r o v e n z a t o Ca m i l l o Be n so , Co u n t o f Ca v o u r

On this page: arched horn eyeglasses characterised by a curious compensator and by a system of tapes to fasten it to the ears, Japan, 18 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence, is captured in the act of writing, while a pair of rivet eyeglasses, probably made of iron, hang unused at his desk, stripped of their function as if they were only a symbol of his spiritual power and knowledge. Swivel head, rivet and bow specs were the first to appear on the scene, in the second half of the 13th century, and remained important pieces until the 18th century. In almost 500 years, different types of materials were used, from leather to iron, whalebone to wood, in the (vain) hope of making them more flexible, robust and stable on the nose, as well as more comfortable. There was also room for aesthetic digressions in this almost Darwinian evolution, as for example with the famous Nuremberg spectacles, named for their origins. The work on these seems like fragile, complex lace, vaguely resembling oriental glasses’ decoration, where the practice of style focused on elaborate perforated bridge models made mainly in tortoiseshell, jade and precious stones and embellished with a curious “compensator� in an attempt to stabilise them on the nose. Many have insinuated over the years that it was the Chinese to invent glasses, but this was refuted by original writings of early Italian At the top: arched tor toiseshell model with side cords, Italy, late missionaries, which confirmed that it was instead these religious orders 16 th-early 17 th centur y. to introduce glasses working and, above all, glass lenses that gradually

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From t he bridge to th e s i d e a rms . F r o m Ug o d i P r o v e n z a t o Ca m i l l o Be n so , Co u n t o f Ca v o u r

From the left: folding arched horn and brass eyeglasses, complete with case in car ved wood with Oriental scenes and symbols, China, 18 th centur y; a valuable trefoil case in car ved ivor y worked per day, France, 18 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

replaced with those of rock crystal and quartz. An important contribution to the habits and customs of the East in terms of glasses came to us in the form of the “Mangwa,” or the delicate drawings by Japanese artist and poet Hokusai (1760-1849), published in 15 volumes (some posthumously) from 1814-1878 and produced in three colours: black, grey and pale pink, a detailed “visual” history of those times and those latitudes. The dates regarding the inventions of corrective lenses instead provide important information about the uses and areas that influenced the need for the creation of spectacles: presbyopic lenses are in fact from 1280, myopic lenses from 1480 and bifocals in the 18th century. This latter invention has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), scientist and politician, considered one of the founding fathers of the United States. In a portrait from 1767 by Scottish painter David Martin (1737-1797), preserved in the White House, he appears with a pair of metal eyeglasses with small rounded circles, similar to those which Camillo Benso, the Count di Cavour, was portrayed with in the 1800’s.

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From t he bridge to th e s i d e a rms . F r o m Ug o d i P r o v e n z a t o Ca m i l l o Be n so , Co u n t o f Ca v o u r

From the top: trefoil box car ved in boxwood, Italy, 17 th centur y; case-pack in pine wood, covered with a woodcut which holds the name of the optician, the emblem of the city of Nuremberg and the emblem of the guild of opticians, Germany, mid-18 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

A unique Roman Breviar y which houses a pair of arched silver eyeglasses inside its cover, Venice, 1794.

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Po i n t s o f v i e w a n d s u p p o r t

From the left: rare wig or silver cap eyeglasses with papier-mâchÊ and red Morocco case, France, 18 th centur y; temple tor toiseshell eyeglasses, called as such because the side arms stop on the temples with large ring terminals, England, 18 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

Points of view and support In the story “Candide ou l’Optimisme” (translation “Candide” in English) by Voltaire (1694-1778) from 1759, Pangloss declares “... noses were made to wear spectacles.” From the outset it was clear, however, that the nose itself was not enough to support the weight of the materials in which the frames were made, to which the enormous weight of the lenses was then added. But when philosopher Pangloss pronounced this truism, the invention of spectacle side arms had already been made, having passed first through other extreme solutions such as ties, ribbons or cords to be fixed behind the head or ears. Before coming to this final solution, an inexplicably long time passed before the side arms appeared in the 18th century. These were invented in 1727 by English optician Edward Scarlett, but were preceded by hat or wig eyeglasses, whose novelty existed in their having a circle of the same material eyeglasses (silver or iron) that, starting from the bridge, encircled the head hiding under hats or hairpieces. Taking into account the customs and fashions of those times that required the use of wigs, the first side arms stopped at the temple on the temple spectacles, once again giving space to various stylistic interpretations influenced also by the materials. These were often precious gold and silver and given that, initially, the use of eyeglasses was only reserved to the wealthy and educated class and probably restricted only to men, they were a perfect mirror of the society of the time which excluded women from many activities. Obviously these solutions, in addition to not solving the balance problem, also generated many headaches. And it was precisely from this search for comfort that, soon after, the final definition of eyeglasses with extendible, folding, and spiral tip side arms with terminals of various styles came to be. Even the bridge underwent several transformations: K, C or X forms, while rather small circles kept their almost oval or otherwise rounded shape. There is no large structural difference between eyeglasses and sunglasses except that, in some models, the lenses are double-hinged on the side arms, creating a side protection, like with the Richardson type model with circles in the shape of a horseshoe, while with the Goldoni-type eyeglasses

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Po i n t s o f v i e w a n d s u p p o r t

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The origins of eyewear

From the top of the previous page: another example of temple tor toiseshell eyeglasses, with double terminals internally in leather to loosen side end pressure on temples, England, approximately 1785; temple eyeglasses in silver with prominent terminals, Italy, late 18 th-early 19 th centur y; optical frames characterised by double circles in silver and tor toiseshell with an X-shaped bridge, folding side arms and small diameter lenses to reduce lateral aberrations according to prescriptions by English optician Benjamin Mar tin, England, late 18 th centur y. On this page: frames in brass with decorated bridge and folding side arms, China, approximately 1880.

in the mid-1700’s, the partitions were made of silk, the same material that visors applied to other, original models. Incidentally, the first coloured lenses appeared in Venice in the 15th century, but here we still cannot speak of protective sunglasses. In fact, initially, the colour often indicated the social level of the person wearing the eyeglasses. Even the eyeglass cases provided specific information about their owners and sometimes their geographical origins, thanks to the writing, inscriptions, initials, names, dates, punches and even the small pictures carvings or engravings that represented religious or allegorical figures. Over time, the case shapes have adapted almost physiologically to that of the spectacles themselves, chasing an ideal of beauty and practicality: from trefoil cases for bow specs to minimal sized containers with rich decorations for folding eyeglasses, from the cylindrical forms for flat eyeglasses, to structured models like boxes with covers and latch lock cases. In some cases, other objects acted as cases, like breviaries that housed eyeglasses in a niche “hollowed out” among their pages. The “technical” detail was another important element. This sometimes allowed the cases to be hung or pinned on belts, bands or waistcoats, thus helping define the styles and fashions of yesteryear. The materials they were made with were not always obvious choices, either. These were sometimes very valuable: ivory, tortoiseshell, hand-painted papier-mâché with decals, embroidered silk, galuchat leather, quality wood and naturally precious metals, filigree and precious stones. Some are real masterpieces created by artisans and jewellers, so extraordinary that one can often forget their original function, such as with the “à la châtelaine” or oriental models, rich in symbolic elements. The passage of this production from artisanal to industrial took place between the 1700’s and 1800’s when the first nearby eyeglass case factories opened.

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Po i n t s o f v i e w a n d s u p p o r t

Clockwise from the top: model in horn, called “Goldoni”, par ticularly in vogue in Venice in the 1700’s. Characterised by coloured lenses, dividing side arms and lateral protections in silk; papier-mâché case from the mid-19 th centur y, made with the decal technique and then painted by hand; protective eyeglasses in tor toiseshell with lateral sun protection screens in silk and ar ticulated side arms, Italy, early 19 th centur y.

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The origins of eyewear

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Po i n t s o f v i e w a n d s u p p o r t

From the top: model from the 19 th centur y with X-shaped bridge and ver y thin ar ticulated side arms; rectangular latch lock silver case decorated with delicate incisions, English, mid-19 th centur y; silver eyeglasses with slightly coloured lenses, X-shaped bridge and extensible side arms, Italy, 19 th centur y.

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