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Members in the News – Christopher (Kit) Maxwell

IN SPARKLING COMPANY: GLASS AND SOCIAL LIFE IN BRITAIN DURING THE 1700S

Exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, USA 
9 May 2020 to 3 January 2021

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 new 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.

Beginning in the intimate setting of a private dressing room, with a magnificent silver gilt dressing service made for the Duchess of Portland in about 1700, learn about how the elite prepared themselves for a night of revelry and entertainment. See the dazzling clothes and accessories worn by the ‘polished’ individual and understand the rules that governed how they behaved. Enter a specially commissioned virtual reality reconstruction of the remarkable and innovative glass-paneled drawing room designed for the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland in 1775, an interior that hasn’t been seen for nearly 200 years. Become immersed in the glittering nightlife of British elite and feel the tension between the exuberance of the fashionable world and the human cost of such sparkling company.

Through a lens of glass, see what it meant to be ‘modern’ in the 1700s, and what it cost.

Editorial source Corning Museum of Glass 

Christopher Maxwell is the Curator of European Glass  at the Corning Museum of Glass.  He is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers of London.  more

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