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Claude glass

  • Date:

    1775-1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Blackened mirror glass

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Rev. R. Lewis

  • Museum number:

    P.18-1972

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries, case 10

  • Public access description

    Object Type
    A Claude Glass - essentially a small, treated mirror contained in a box - is a portable drawing and painting aid that was widely used in the later 18th century by amateur artists on sketching tours. The reflections in it of surrounding scenery were supposed to resemble some of the characteristics of Italian landscapes by the famous 17th-century painter and sketcher Claude Lorrain, hence the name.

    Materials & Use
    The `glass' consists of a slightly convex blackened mirror, which was carried in the hand and held up to the eye. The image thus seen was the scenery behind - rather than in front of - the user. The mirror's convexity reduced extensive views to the dimensions of a small drawing. The use of a blackened rather than an ordinary silvered mirror resulted in a somewhat weakened reflection, which stressed the prominent features in the landscape at the expense of detail. It also lowered the colour key. A larger version of this device is said on occasion to have been fixed to the windows of horse-drawn carriages in order to reflect the passing scenery.

  • Dimensions

    Height: 21 cm open, approx., Width: 14 cm approx.

  • Descriptive line

    A slightly convex, blackened mirror, known as Claude glass. 1775-1780.

  • Labels and date

    British Galleries:
    Claude glasses reflected and concentrated the image, so helping the artist to compose a picturesque view of landscape. They were named after the 17th-century French artist, Claude Lorrain (1604 - 1682). His landscapes were particularly admired in Britain and such glasses were widely used in the late 18th century by amateur artists. [27/03/2003]

  • Collection code

    Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection