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Medievel Glass at Corning Museum of Glass - Assignment Example

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Glass for drinking wine can also be an object of art; it can be society’s entire culture. Mirrors, drinking glasses, and windows were some of the functional uses of glass until people discovered that glass could also stand for their cultural identity and civilization. …
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Medievel Glass at Corning Museum of Glass
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Download file to see previous pages . People who do not normally see glass as an artwork will be surprised to know that a museum of glass exists. The medieval glass collection of the Corning Museum of Glass (CMG, 2012a) displays a wide range of glass objects that had decorative and functional purposes during medieval times. After conducting a virtual visit of this museum’s “Medieval Glass for Popes, Princes and Peasants,” this writer realized how much glass can depict cultural and social beliefs, divisions, and struggles. Glass signifies cultural values and social divisions because its transformation across time depicts social stratification and social transformation.
Medieval glass begins somewhere, and its humble beginnings reflect the practical needs and social concerns of its users. A 425-dated olive green glass, a Byzantine Cone Beaker, demonstrates a simple design that reflects its functional purpose (see Figure 1). After the Roman Empire disintegrated, tastes in glass varied. In locations where the Franks lived, simpler shapes and decorative styles were the norm. This Byzantine Cone Beaker is designed for convenience, which suggests how this glass expresses the pragmatic needs of its users. Glass art can be used as a “medium of learning” of another time and culture (Diffey, 1997, p.27). One can only imagine the working-class drinking their wine in pubs or homes and relaxing enough to forget their troubles. This glass stands for the practical demands of people making a living for survival. Nothing is simple with this simple glass. It is simple because life is hard.
Figure 1: A Byzantine Cone Beaker, dating 425-599 Source: Corning Museum of Glass (2012b) The latest example of medieval glass in the exhibit is impressive because of its intricate design that depicts strong social changes and inequalities. A Baroque Ewer (see figure 2), a colorless glass with green tinge and numerous bubbles in color combinations, suggests aesthetic beauty and creativity. The top of the handle has a thumb rest, which is an innovation (CMG, 2012b). It signifies the changing society that demands creativity in its products. Moreover, this ewer has evolved a great deal from initial glass designs because it is multi-colored and intricately formed. Even when these things have simple functions, people craved for more beauty in their everyday objects. This beauty essentially represents their social identity. Their demand for more beautiful things in their lives connotes their need for asserting their social importance. Bourdieu talks about social and economic capital that reinforces social inequality (Dillon, 2010). Only the rich can afford this ewer, and design that is important to them becomes something coveted, and yet to the masses it is unimportant. Nevertheless, glass becomes a unique differentiating tool of their social status. Figure 2: A Baroque Ewer, dating 1550-1600 Source: Corning Museum of Glass (2012b) Glass objects represent a groups’ social status and identities. For instance, figure 3 shows a Behaim Beaker that might have been specifically made for a rich merchant’s daughter’s wedding. The wedding took place on July 7, 1495; it was the nuptial of Michael Behaim and Katerina Lochnerin, the daughter of a rich merchant, whose company monopolized the trade between Nuremberg and Venice (CMG, 2012b). This object shows that even the simplest things say something about the owner and his/her culture and society. The name Behaim Beaker belongs to a prominent family and its drawings of saints, birds, and helmets signify power. These are objects that help conceive self-identity with “images [that] shape an individual self-concept” (Freedman, 2003, p.2). It demonstrates power and majesty in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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