Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Venice: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana – Spectacles Fit for a Doge. The Sunglasses in the Venice of the Eighteenth Century exhibition

Venice: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana – Spectacles Fit for a Doge. The Sunglasses in the Venice of the Eighteenth Century exhibition.  In the majestic frescoed rooms of the Biblioteca Sansoviniana of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, until July 13, the exhibition Specticales Fit for a Doge. The Sunglasses in the Venice of the Eighteenth Century exhibition, in collaboration with, the Comitato Venezia, the Eyeglass Museum of Pieve di Cadore and the Experimental Station of Murano Glass.

"Nero princeps gladiatorum pugnas spectabat in smaragdo"

Emperor Nero was one of the first used a colored stone to protect his eyes from sunlight as he watched the gladiators in combat in the Colosseum.  Venetian opticians, 120 years before the rest of the world discovered the danger of ultra-violet rays, used to produced emerald green color glass, to create sunglasses that totally stopped these rays. During the 18th century in Venice, the nobility and Commanders da Mar (of the sea) wore sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glare of reflected light while navigating the waters of the lagoon or the open sea.


Spectacles Fit for a Doge. The exhibition, curated by Roberto Vascellari, aims to spread the story of the glasses, especially in Venice, where the Murano glassworks produced the first lenses to shield his eyes from the sun. These lenses, green color and the form of spectacles or "mirrors" transparent, were used during the transfer gondola for the ladies or children. Recent studies have shown that the original lens of the eighteenth century have a great filtering properties to UV rays, known to be harmful to the eyes and this is very interesting, as the UV rays were not discovered until the next century.
Above. Eighteenth century Venetian horn glasses. Goldoni-type eyeglasses or temple case with clutches.  Frame made of horn with temple pieces having eyelets.  Lateral sun-guards of silk damask similar to brocatelle.   Contents in leather carrying case dyed with Indian ink to simulate tortoise shell.

Spectacles Fit for a Doge An eighteenth century oil painting of the Neapolitan School, Portrait of a Mathematician, or "The Engineer", the painting probably represents Carlo Goldoni.  The reason why collectors have referred to this kind of eyewear as Goldoni eyeglasses (above) is still something of a small mystery.  On the one hand, it may have to do with the period in which they were invented, which was contemporary to the life of the Venetian playwright.  On the other hand, while sources suggested that the expression could have been coined by a noted collector of eyeglasses, Fritz Ratschuler.

Spectacles Fit for a Doge. In late seventeenth century Venice, colored glass was also used for recreational purposes, but always in a way related to visual perception.  Particularly curious are those multifaceted pieces of glass that were used to multiply the images of observed objects, reproducing an image in the same number of times as the number of facets cut into the surface of the glass.
Above. A blond horn Venetian orange Polyhedral lens monocle (second half of the eighteenth century) having sixteen rhombiform facets.  The small handle has two nubs that recall those on the scissor-type longuette, and it has a hole to which a neck-chain can be attached.

Spectacles Fit for a Doge.  The first publication entirely about using eyeglasses, considered the first work of optometry, was Uso de los Antojos by Benito Daza de Valdez, which was published in 1623 in Spain.   Parts of this are quite pertinent to the exhibition since darkly colored lenses are mentioned here.

Spectacles Fit for a Doge.  The gondola for ladies glasses were mounted in a frame similar to a hand-held mirror.  They probably evolved from monocles and were modified for the protection of well-to-do women and children during outings in the gondola.
Above. Late eighteenth century horn Venetian Gondola glass.  Because of its small size, this may have been made to protect a child’s eyes.  The frame made of horn has been dyed to achieve a tortoise-shell effect.   The narrowness of the handle makes one think that it may have served to help hang the glass up in the gondola using a small fork.  Contents in pressed leather cases decorated with flowers and whorls of foliage painted in gold.
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