Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome
The first major exhibition to focus on the influence of ancient Roman styles on the glassmakers of the 19th century, Reflecting Antiquity, presented modern works along with an exceptional grouping of rare ancient Roman glass.
This exhibition, produced jointly by The Corning Museum of Glass and The J. Paul Getty Museum, was co-curated by Drs. Karol Wight and David Whitehouse. Reflecting Antiquity was presented at The Getty Villa between October 18, 2007, and January 14, 2008, before coming to The Corning Museum of Glass.
Reflecting Antiquity contained 114 objects from 20 museums and private collections in the United States and Europe. The Corning version of the show included four objects from the Museo del Vetro, Murano, Italy, that were not displayed at The Getty Villa. This exhibition included an audio tour, videos demonstrating glassmaking techniques, a display for young visitors, and live Hot Glass Show demonstrations of techniques used by ancient and modern glassmakers.
The 19th century was an age of scientific and industrial advancement, but it was also an age of cultural revivals. Sometimes the revival of a past style emphasized a desire to redefine national identity, while at other times artists sought to enrich their forms of expression. The passion for historical and exotic styles resulted in many imitations of medieval, Renaissance, Oriental, and Roman art.
Nineteenth-century glassmakers responded to the demand for historical styles, and Reflecting Antiquity explored the ways in which they were inspired by the glass of ancient Rome, much of it unearthed in archaeological excavations.
The exhibition was divided into eight sections. The introduction surveyed the range of historical styles embraced by Victorian glassmakers. Each of the succeeding sections celebrated one category of Roman glass and how modern glassmakers responded to it. Ancient cameo glass, gold glasses, and mosaic glass inspired replicas and, later, modern variations on ancient themes.
Two 19th-century German glass factories successfully marketed copies of Roman objects, and, at about the same time, glassmakers in Europe and the United States found ways to imitate the unintended iridescence found on many ancient glasses. In the 20th century, a handful of glass cutters made versions of Roman cage cups, while glassmakers produced replicas of ancient objects in order to learn how the originals may have been made.