A Rare c.1840 Pocket Set Of Artist’s Claude Lorrain Glass Filters

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Origin: English
Period: William IV/Early Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1830-40
Length: 2.75 inches / 7 cms

The rare pocket set of Claude Lorrain filters, comprising of five coloured glass filters (green, yellow, blue, red, brown), each about 2.5 cms in diameter, and framed on individual eared tortoiseshell arms, pivoting from the main tortoiseshell body and surviving from the William IV to early Victorian period of England.

Remaining in good original condition the instrument has no damage to speak of, the filters are all in good condition and the tortoiseshell without cracks. The movement to each arms is smooth and we have given the whole a light clean. The tortoiseshell is worn a little more to the extremities, as one would expect from use for over one hundred and fifty years.

Around the end of the 18th Century and during the 19th Century when landscape emerged as a subject to admire and depict for its aesthetic values many aids were used by artists as well as tourists to strengthen the experience of the view expanding before them. The aim of the different tools were to appropriate the landscape to facilitate the viewing of it as an image instead of it being three-dimensional. The aids framed, flattened and altered the colour or reduced the size of the view. In this period you could find viewing stations with windows which all had different coloured stained glass so that the visitor could view the landscape through the appropriate window for the season - light green for spring, yellow for summer, orange for autumn and light blue for winter. Claude Lorrain Glasses were a set of filters for the artist to use when drawing or painting the landscape. The filters all had different colours to aid highlight different, for that moment, appropriate sensations of the landscape. There were also expressions of an imagined tool that would consist of different coloured pieces of glass that adjusted to, and strengthened the colour of the landscape. To alter the colour of the landscape meant the scenery became flattened as an effect of the similarity of colour throughout. As the differences in colour are erased the compositional elements become more apparent - the scenery starts to resemble a flattened image. Thus they could condense hours, even months of differing light effects into a single morning’s or afternoon’s viewing. Yet again, the human spectator is able to control and manipulate the untamed natural landscape, as could be done with the Claude mirror.

The fascination with the picturesque, and thus the vogue for both Claude mirrors and Claude glasses began to decline by the middle of the nineteenth century. By then, there was a greater emphasis on the accurate representation of the natural world. Artists ceased to romanticize landscapes and instead put on their canvases what they actually saw before them, doing their best to render the light and color as naturally as possible, without the use of any optical gadgets. But during the Regency period there were still many devotees of the picturesque, and many of them owned a Claude mirror, a set of Claude glasses, or both. There is documentary evidence that some of the more enthusiastic artists and tourists had mirrors or glasses made large enough to be fitted to the side of a carriage window. In this way, all of the passing scenery could be romanticized as the carriage moved.

According to a contemporary account, they were useful “for producing a great variety of colors and showing their combination; it also will be found both pleasing and useful for viewing eclipses, clouds, landscapes, &c.” (benjamin pike. Illustrated descriptive catalogue of optical, mathematical, and philosophical instruments. New york, 1856).

A rare find in desirable condition and an instrument that represents the instagram of the mid nineteenth century. Perfect for painters, poets and picturesque tourists.

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