Four centuries of eyewear design go on display at Design Museum Holon

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Inuit snow goggles made of bone feature in the Overview exhibition

Four centuries of eyewear design go on display at Design Museum Holon

Inuit snow goggles, opera glasses disguised as ladies' handheld fans and experimental sunglass designs from the 1960s feature among a trove of historical eyewear that has gone on display at Design Museum Holon.

The glasses belongs to a single collector, Claude Samuel, the son of a former eyewear designer for French fashion brand Pierre Cardin.

Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
The exhibition includes experimental designs from the 1960s, like these double frame plastic sunglasses made in Italy

His collection spans some 400 objects dating back to the 17th century, including eyeglasses, sunglasses, pince-nez, lorgnettes, monocles, safety goggles, opera binoculars and the elaborate eye-testing headgear known as phoropters.

Israel's Design Museum Holon – a building designed by Ron Arad – is presenting the collection as one part of its exhibition Overview, which is dedicated to exploring the relationship between vision and design.

Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
The collection also features safety goggles, like this aluminium and rubber pair from 1960s France, used for welding

"The exhibition will not only enable an observation of the cultural history of eyeglasses, but also of the designer's role throughout the process," said Overview exhibition curator and Holon's acting chief curator as Maya Dvash.

"We tend to forget that the initial purpose of eyeglasses was to correct a flaw, and eyeglasses do not conceal that flaw, but actually emphasise it by means of design."

Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Benjamin Martin eyeglasses, made in 1756 from metal and bull horn, are among the older designs in the collection

One of the oldest pieces in Samuel's collection is a pair of iron bow spectacles made by the esteemed Nuremberg Spectacle Makers Guild in the mid-17th century.

The newer examples include Pierre Cardin prototypes from the 1960s, rendered in plastic and incorporating experimental touches like four lenses in two colours, or asymmetric frames.

Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Asymmetrical plastic frames feature among the sunglasses prototypes made by fashion house Pierre Cardin in France in the 1960s

From the years in between, the exhibition includes less familiar objects like a pair of Inuit snow goggles, made from bone with a fine slit cut over each eye. The eyewear is traditionally made and worn by indigenous peoples of the Arctic to prevent snow blindness.

Some of the most elaborate designs come from the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the designs from this time combined opera glasses and the hand fans women carried to the theatre combined into one hybrid product.

Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
These monocular opera spyglass fan from France were made in the early 18th century from buffalo horn

Alongside the display of Samuel's historical artefacts, Design Museum Holon is presenting 40 specially commissioned eyewear concepts from contemporary Israeli designers. The museum prompted the designers to answer the question "what are eyeglasses?".

Folding art-nouveau lorgnettes, made from gold in the 19th century
Some of the most elaborate designs came from the 19th-century, including these folding art-nouveau lorgnettes made from gold

A third component to the exhibition features objects from the museum's permanent collection that explore optical illusions related to focus, colour and perspective.

The Overview exhibition opened at Design Museum Holon on 20 December 2016 and continues until 29 April 2017.

Photography is by Eli Bohbot.

More images

Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Monocular opera spyglass fan from France, made in the 18th century from buffalo horn
Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Phoropter from The British Refracting Unit, England, made in 1904 from metal
Race-car driver's glasses from France, made in 1920 from leather and textile
Sunglasses by Pierre Cardin, made from plastic in 1960
Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Phoropter test glasses made in England in the mid-19th century from metal and ivory
Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Folding lorgnette with pearl necklace, from central Europe and made in the early 20th century from metal and pearls
Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Vision examination lenses from the Unites States, made in the late 19th century by Bakelite
Folding Chinese spectacles with case, made in the 18th century from bronze
Overview eyewear exhibition at Design Museum Holon
Tortoise shell eyewear from the 19th century