Located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, the Corning Museum of Glass is preparing its spring exhibition, In Sparkling Company: Glass and Social Life in Britain During the 1700s. From glittering costumes and elaborately presented confectionery, to polished mirrors and dazzling chandeliers, glass helped define the social rituals and cultural values of the period.
On display will be many important examples of 18th Century British glass, including:
- Glass lighting and tableware, all made possible through the perfection of British lead ‘crystal’ in the late 1600s and exported throughout Europe and the British colonies in America and beyond.
- A number of large mirrors, which became the tell-tale sign of a fashionable interior, and reverse-painted glass meticulously decorated in China for the British luxury market.
- Opulent glass dressing room accessories, including a magnificent gilded silver dressing table set, with a looking glass as its centerpiece, made in about 1700 for the 1st Countess of Portland; perfume bottles, patch boxes, a dazzling cut glass washing basin and pitcher and an exquisite blue glass casket richly mounted in gilded metal, used in the “toilette” a semi-public ritual of dressing which was adopted from France for men and women alike and became a feature of British aristocratic life in the 18th Century.
Domestic interiors, over the course of the 18th Century, were transformed by the increasing presence of clear and smooth plate glass. The exhibition will 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. This unique room, measuring 36 by 22 feet, was paneled between dado rail and architrave with red glass panels sprinkled on the reverse with flakes of metal foil, like large-scale glitter. Similarly spangled green glass pilasters, large French looking glasses, and intricate neo-classical ornament in gilded lead completed the dazzling scheme. 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. Visitors will be transported into the interior, experiencing the original design scheme – last seen almost 200 years ago. This will be the first virtual-reality experience ever offered at the Corning Museum of Glass.
The exhibition opens May 9, 2020.