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In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain During the 1700s: Exhibition Overview

May 22, 2021 – January 2, 2022, Changing Exhibitions Gallery, The Corning Museum of Glass

In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain During the 1700s

 

In the 1700s, Britain was a vibrant and commercial nation. Its growing cities were hubs of sociability, scientific advancement, trade, and finance. From glittering costume and elaborately presented confectionery, to polished mirrors and dazzling chandeliers, glass helped define the social rituals and cultural values of the period. While innovations in glass delighted the wealthy, the material also bore witness to the ambitions of colonization and the horrors of the African slave trade. Glass beads were traded for human lives and elegant glass dishes, baskets and bowls held sweet delicacies made with sugar produced by enslaved labor. Underpinning Britain’s prosperity were aggressive foreign trade policies, colonization and a far-reaching economy of enslavement, the profits of which funded the pleasures and innovations of the fashionable world.

 

Book cover depicts detail of Jean-Etienne Liotard, John, Lord Mountstuart, later 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bute, 1763. Man is well dressed in blue embellished suit with lace cuffs and collar. He is turned away from mirror, but reflected in profile in mirror with gold frame.

In Sparkling Company: Reflections on Glass in the 18th-Century British World

Christopher L. Maxwell, Editor

 
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Britain in the 1700s was complex, dynamic, and full of growth, whether industrial, geographical, intellectual or societal. The nation began the century under the leadership of a Dutch king (William III, r. 1689-1702), followed by a dynasty of Germans (the Hanoverians, r.1714-1837). Its aristocracy was educated on European Grand Tours, and its commercial, political and territorial ambitions stretched from North America to India, and from Africa to China. It was a world that fostered exploration, expansion and exploitation.

The British glass industry replaced that of Venice as the global leader during this period but, beyond its presence in dining and drinking rituals, little discussion has hitherto been made of the significance of glass in the lives of the country’s elite during the 1700s.

In Sparkling Company: Reflections on Glass in the 18th-Century British World accompanies a major exhibition at The Corning Museum of Glass in 2021. From portraiture to costume, and science to slavery, the essays contained in this publication offer unique perspectives from noted scholars on the role of glass in defining and expressing the cultural values of Britain during the 1700s.

 

Table of Contents

Director's foreword / Karol B. Wight
Acknowledgments
Introduction / Christopher L. Maxwell
People in glass houses: the polished and the polite in Georgian Britain / Christopher L. Maxwell
Slavery and glass: tropes of "race" and reflection / Kerry Sinanan
Glass in 18th-century British portraiture / Marcia Pointon
The British scientific glass enlightenment during the long 18th century / Marvin Bolt
The glass of fashion / Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell
"The eye as well as the appetite must be car'd for": glass and dining in Ireland, about 1680-about 1830 / Anna Moran
L'officier sableur: sand painters as decorators of the 18th century dining table / Melanie Doderer-Winkler
"A gloss equal to glass": the material brilliance of early American furniture / Jennifer Y. Chuong

 

Published in 2020 by The Corning Museum of Glass.

In Sparkling Company Blog Posts

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Meet the Curator

Professional headshot of curator Christopher Maxwell

Christopher Maxwell,
Curator of Early Modern Glass

Join curator Christopher Maxwell and Cheyney McKnight, founder and director of Not Your Momma's History, as they reflect on the exhibition "In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain during the 1700s" and consider the experiences of 18th-century enslaved lady’s maids and their role at the dressing table. This event was presented as part of the opening of the exhibition.

Step into the dazzling world of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland in this sparkling recreation of the glass drawing room at Northumberland House, London. This 360° video shows the virtual room that was created as part of the exhibition "In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain During the 1700s."

Find Answers to Your Glass Questions

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Check out the In Sparkling Company merchandise in The Shops at The Corning Museum of Glass. Need help? Contact The Shops online or call 800-723-9156.

Book cover

Book: Robert Adam

By Jeremy Musson. Foreword: Sir Simon Jenkins, Photographs: Paul Barker.

Rectangular box with image of Vauxhall Gardens on front. Five puzzle pieces next to box.

Puzzle: Vauxhall Gardens

A View of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens, London, 1751. Private Collection. Courtesy of David Coke. 100 pieces.

A View of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens, London, 1751.

Mug: Vauxhall Gardens

A View of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens, London, 1751. Private Collection. Courtesy of David Coke.

A View of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens, London, 1751, printed on a rectangular magnet and also on a bookmark.

Magnet & Bookmark Set: Vauxhall Gardens

A View of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens, London, 1751. Private Collection. Courtesy of David Coke.

Set of Green Vases with Gilded Figures. The golden figures on these vases are dressed in fanciful rustic costume,

Print: Set of Green Vases

Set of Green Vases with Gilded Figures. Probably decorated in the London workshop of James Giles, about 1765. 11 x 14 inches.

Two girandoles side by side. The brilliant cut-glass arms and pendants on these girandoles were designed to catch the light and sparkle just like precious diamonds.

Print: Pair of Girandoles

Pair of Girandoles, about 1785. In the 1700s, London became the center of the diamond trade in Europe. 11 x 14 inches.

Pair of earrings with colored glass

Print: Pair of Earrings

Pair of Earrings with Colored Glass "Jewels", about 1760. 14 x 11 inches.

Design for the end wall of the drawing room at Northumberland House, London. Room was paneled in spangled red glass and mirrors.

Magnet & Bookmark Set: Northumberland House

Design for the end wall of the drawing room at Northumberland House, London. Robert Adam, London, 1770-1773. © Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photography by Ardon Bar Hama.

Journal: Northumberland House

Design for the end wall of the drawing room at Northumberland House, London. Robert Adam, London, 1770-1773. © Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photography by Ardon Bar Hama. Unlined. 6 x 8.5 inches.

Man's Coat with glass 'jewels'.

Magnet & Bookmark Set: Man's Coat

Man's Coat with glass 'jewels'. France, about 1780. Courtesy of the Fashion Museum Bath.

Journal: Man's Coat

Man's Coat with glass "jewels." France, about 1780. Courtesy of the Fashion Museum Bath. 6 x 8.5 inches.

Rectangular box with image of painting of Mary Little, dressed in a silk gown with a glass ornament in her hair. Four puzzle pieces are next to the box.

Puzzle: Lady Mary

Mary Little, later Lady Carr. Thomas Gainsborough, England about 1765. Yale Center for British Art. Bequest of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham. 100 pieces.

Rectangular magnet and bookmark featuring image of 23-year-old Mary Little dressed in a silk gown with a glass ornament in her hair.

Magnet & Bookmark Set: Lady Mary Little

Mary Little, later Lady Carr. Thomas Gainsborough, England about 1765. Yale Center for British Art. Bequest of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham.

Journal with image of 23-year-old Mary Little dressed in a silk gown with a glass ornament in her hair on cover.

Journal: Lady Mary Little

Mary Little, later Lady Carr. Thomas Gainsborough, England about 1765. Yale Center for British Art. Bequest of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham. 6 x 8.5 inches.

Round hand mirror featuring closeup of a woman's hand holding flowers

Hand Mirror: Lady Mary

Mary Little, later Lady Carr. Thomas Gainsborough, England about 1765. Yale Center for British Art. Bequest of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham. 2.25 inches, round.

Image of 4 note cards, featuring a pair of earrings, a mirror in a gilded wood frame, a set of green vases featuring gilded figures, and a pair of girandoles with arms and pendants.

Notecards: In Sparkling Company

4 cards, 2 of each design. 5.5 x 4.25 inches.

Notecard box with portrait of Mary Little on cover and 4 notecards including Mary Little portrait, a design for the end wall of Northumberland House, a view of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens, and a man's coat with

Notecards: In Sparkling Company

4 cards, 2 of each design. 5.5 x 4.25 inches.

Coaster case with image of close-up of man's coat with jewels and four coasters with close-up images of objects in exhibition.

Coasters: In Sparkling Company

Includes one of each design.

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