The Exquisite: Claude Glass

This post is part of a series called The Exquisite, where I profile entries from the book “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights” by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins.

Claude Glass

A convex hand mirror used to view landscapes

 Text from “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite” by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins

The English Poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771) climbed onto a hilltop near the village of Keswick in 1769, and instead of simply taking in the view of the misty meadowland below, he took out his Claude glass, a convex, tinted mirror, something like a lady’s compact, which artists and tourists kept close at hand in the late eighteenth century, convinced that the reflection of a pretty view was usually prettier than the view itself. In order to see the landscape more clearly, Gray turned his back to the sight and aimed the Claude glass back over his shoulder, framing up “a picture, that if I could transmit it to you, & fix it in all the softness of its living colours, would fairly sell for a thousand pounds,” he wrote to a friend, “This is the sweetest scene I can yet discover in point of pastoral beauty.”

Wikipedia: The Claude glass is named for Claude Lorrain, a 17th-century landscape painter, whose name in the late 18th century became synonymous with the picturesque aesthetic.

Click on images for sources.

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