Closing April 30, 2023
The Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye® is home to nearly 4,000 aids to vision including eyeglasses, sunglasses, goggles, monoculars, binoculars, and telescopes. We are featuring this collection in our special exhibit, “Spectacular Spectacles,” which explores how eyeglasses work and the unique designs of eyeglasses since their invention in the 13th century.
For thousands of people, spectacles bring the world into focus, but their invention over 700 years ago is obscure- historians still debate who invented them and where. Moreover, few people understand how eyeglasses work and would be surprised by the many variations on their use that were developed. As this special exhibition shows, spectacles are spectacular examples of their times and cultures. By exploring the many types of vision aids that have existed, we can observe an evolution of both technology and craftsmanship.
Image: Wood Engraving of a Man Holding Spectacles, The Nuremberg Chronicle, c1493
Vision makes our lives richer, filling us with emotions ranging from wonder and joy to fear and anger. The symbol of the eye derives meaning from our shared understanding of these feelings. Often, they suggest a higher power – one that sees all, knows all, and wishes us good or evil.
This exhibit includes ancient and modern objects from around the world, showcasing how the eye has persisted as a symbol through time. The specific uses of these objects are particular to each culture but there are recurring themes of enlightenment, healing, and protection. Featured topics include the ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus, pendants protecting against the evil eye, patron saints of eyes in the Catholic canon, and more.
“Decoding the Eye: Signs & Symbols” will be on display in the museum from May 10, 2023 through April 2024, and will be paired with programs and gallery crafts throughout the year.
Image: Tin ex-voto, 19th century