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Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome

By David Whitehouse
Corning Museum of Glass

"Visitors to our museums are frequently unaware that glass has been manufactured for thousands of years, and they marvel at the objects that were made as early as the second millennium B.C. They are also unaware that many of the techniques used to fashion glass into beautifully decorated shapes have been in existence since at least the first century B.C." So write Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and David Whitehouse, executive director of the Corning Museum of Glass, in the foreword to this scholarly and vividly photographed catalog of an exhibition at the museum (through May 27). This collaborative effort by Karol Wight, curator of antiquities at the Getty, and Whitehouse, draws largely on the collections of both institutions, but includes items borrowed from individuals and museums in the United States and Europe to present over 112 striking and rare ancient works and modern imitations. Five chapters of the catalog focus entirely on the rediscovery of certain types of Roman glass and their effect on 19th-century glassmaking, and include the engrossing history and descriptions of cameo glass, gold glass, mosaic glass, cage cups and replicas of Roman glass vessels made at Ehrenfeld and Mainz in Germany. The different techniques used in the making of early glass and present-day reproductions are also examined, further exploring the role of archaeology in the revitalization of the modern glass industry. A remarkable 142-page segment chronicles 114 illustrated works that illuminate the beauty of this familiar medium, lending a new appreciation for a material we so often take for granted in our daily lives.


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