Antiquity? Or Contemporary?

We recently polled our Facebook fans to see if you could guess between two objects which was an antiquity and which was a contemporary glass piece.  For those who guessed that the two red glass vessels were contemporary – you’re right!

"Hopi" Vessels United States, Seattle, WA 1996 Non-lead glass Overall a) H: 69.2 cm, W: 19.6 cm, Diam 13.8 cm; b) H: 20 cm, Diam (max): 38.4 cm 96.4.166 11th Rakow Commission

Hopi, by Italian glassmaker Lino Tagliapietra was inspired by the art of the native people of the American Southwest.  The artist’s use of traditional shapes bears resemblance to ceramics and woven baskets made by the Hopi for centuries.  It may look like the vessels were created long ago, but in fact they were made in 1996 as the 11th Rakow Commission for The Corning Museum of Glass.

“Lino learned how to be a designer and maker in Murano, but he learned how to be an artist in America.  And not only has he been influenced by the attitudes of American glass artists, but by American art.” – Tina Oldknow, Voices of Contemporary Glass: The Heineman Collection, Corning, New York: The Corning Museum of Glass, 2009, pp.296.

"Ribbon Glass Cup" Roman Empire; probably Italy About 25 BC-50 AD Glass Roman Empire Overall H: 4.8 cm; Rim Diam: 8.6 cm 72.1.11

Although it looks like a colorful contemporary art piece, the glass cup was actually created in the Roman Empire around 25 BC-50 AD.  In a process that is still used today, the artist fused colored glass canes together into a flat multi-colored disk.  The disk was then placed over a mold and heated until the glass softened and slumped, forming the glass into a cup shape.

It continually amazes me that the same glassmaking techniques used in the ancient Roman Empire are still used by artists today.  Some techniques have been modified over time, and new tools have been developed with changes in technology, but artists like Tagliapietra still use glassblowing techniques that have been around for centuries.  If the technique is the same, how can we tell if the piece is ancient or modern?  Information about the Museum’s collection can be found online, or next time you’re at the Museum, rent an iPod Touch to explore more information about the objects (including the year it was created) on the Museum mobile app.  And luckily, most objects in the Glass Collection Galleries are grouped by the period they were created in.  Good thing, because with 35 centuries of glass art in the Museum’s collection, it might be difficult otherwise!