Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Green tinted spectacles

Nathaniel Olds, 1837
Jeptha Homer Wade (American, 1811-1890)
oil on canvas
Cleveland Museum of Art 1991.134.2

Look at those glasses! We walked into the American art gallery at the Cleveland Museum of Art this weekend and were simply delighted by this awesome portrait of a man in futuristic looking glasses!

We almost didn't read the caption because we were enjoying making up all kinds of wonderful stories about the glasses but alas we gave in. Who would have guessed it had to do with whale oil and Western Union?! The caption says it all (and it's interesting to boot) so here it is (links added by me):

"The green-tinted spectacles worn by Olds were designed to protect the eyes from the intensity of Argand lamps, a type of indoor light used during the early 1800s. These lamps burned whale oil, and many people worried that its bright flames might damage eyesight.The painter of this portrait founded the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1854 and soon became one of Cleveland’s wealthiest industrialists. His grandson, Jeptha Wade II, was a founder of the Cleveland Museum of Art and donated the land upon which it stands as a Christmas gift to the city in 1892." (Cleveland Museum of Art website:

I discovered a neat feature in the online collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Museums are always looking for ways to make their collections online as relateable to seeing the real thing as they can. From zooming capabilities to dimensions. If you click on "how big is it" you see the art work next to the silhouette of an average height man. It gives you a better perspective of the scale of the piece than just reading the dimensions. Unfortunately you don't really know how tall the "man" is, but I think its a great idea nonetheless. See it here:

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