Horned Eye Bead

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Object Name: 
Horned Eye Bead
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
Overall H: 2.6 cm, Diam (max): 2.9 cm; Bore Diam: 0.9 cm
On Display
399-300 BC
Web Description: 
The earliest known Chinese glass beads were crafted during the Western Zhou period, from the ninth to eighth centuries B.C. They were probably the outcome of attempts to imitate jade, an important and precious stone for the Chinese. Glass proved to be a good substitute and easier to work as a material. Makers of glass beads became more proficient and produced complex designs during the Zhou dynasty and in the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.). Near the end of the Zhou dynasty, unique Chinese eye beads were fashioned. These beads differed from other, contemporaneous beads both in style and in the materials used in their construction. Chinese glass of this period contains a significant amount of lead and barium, resulting in a heavier bead. The Chinese were also making composite beads, which consisted of glass layered on a fritted core that was made on a base core of terra cotta. They developed a “revolving eye” form, in which the pupil is placed off-center; in addition, eyes are clustered into small rosettes (e.g., 51.6.552 and 51.6.572). This example of a horned eye bead was made during the height of Chinese eye-bead production. The stratified eyes protrude from the surface, revolving around the circumference of the bead, along with smaller rosette eye clusters that are also raised above the surface. This and other Chinese eye beads of this period are extremely complex in design. The eyes used are more decorative, and they do not convey a protective quality, as in other eye beads made in Western Asia and Egypt. The high quality of glass beadmaking exemplified here disappeared at the end of the Zhou dynasty, and Chinese glass beads reverted to simpler forms in the ensuing centuries.
Eumorfopoulous, George, Former Collection
Davis, Cecil, Source
Primary Description: 
Translucent dark blue glass, now gray on surface; hot-worked; perhaps cut from a tube, then stratified. Tubular shape with high stratified protuberances; central band of five medallions of seven "eyes" each, the uppermost layers in alternating blue and yellow glasses, each of two of these interspersed with two small stratified "eyes"; above and below, five projecting stratified "eyes" of eight layers each, showing as rings of opaque white, pale yellow and dark blue, with top (blue) layer exposed entirely; these projections interspersed with pairs of small "eyes" of opaque white and blue layers; bore, clear cut and straight walled; bore ends level.
Corning Museum of Glass 2013-05-18 through 2014-01-05
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Corning Museum of Glass 2007-04-01 through 2007-10-21
West Bridge Show; traveling to The Gallery at Steuben in 2008 (cancelled 6-2008)
Anthropology: A Global Perspective (2015) illustrated, p. 204;
Tracing Eye Beads Through Time (2013-03) illustrated, p. 25, fig. 7, upper left; BIB# AI92488
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, p. 12, no. 4; BIB# 134720
Beads: 3,500 Years of Glass Beads (2013) illustrated, p. 9 (fig 5, bottom left); BIB# AI93926
Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead (2013) illustrated, p. 8; BIB# AI94015
Corning Museum of Glass Calendar (2013) illustrated, p. 2, top; BIB# AI94222
Important collection of Chinese ceramics, lacquer, Cloisonne enamels and works of art (1968-07-02) lot 7;
Sotheby's Sale (1940-05-31) lot 451;