Conférence – The Art and Nature of Glass. A Material in the Early Modern History of Knowledge

Sven Dupré (Utrecht University) : The Art and Nature of Glass – A Material in the Early Modern History of Knowledge

Today, glass is ubiquitous, from window glass to tableware, and from eyeglasses to glass fibres. I am currently writing a history of glass, and in this lecture, I will reflect on the opportunities of a focus on one material – glass – in writing the history of knowledge. Such a history cuts across the worlds of art, science, craft and technology, and across the various properties of glass as a material: its malleability when it is hot, its translucency and brilliant colours, its transparency which allows us to look through it, and its fragility and brittleness. One theme is how important imitation has been to the development of glass; not just the imitation of historical glass and techniques, but the imitation of nature. The visual qualities  of translucency, light and colour just mentioned were the most important elements in the description of gemstones as well as in the description of their imitations in several crafts, especially glass-making, since Antiquity. However, the other way around, the art of glass-making had a major impact on our knowledge of nature. In this lecture I will show how the making of glass is closely intertwined with the way we experience and know the world. Without glass we would live in a different world, and certainly understand it less.


Boekentoren (Rozier 9, 9000 Gent) : Belvédère

Registration (before 27 May) : 


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