The Claude Glass as an 18th-Century Instagram

The 18th-Century Phenomenon of Putting a Filter on a Sunset for Likes

Before Instagram, there was the Claude glass…


Excerpt: "ON A MILD SUMMER EVENING in 1769, English poet Thomas Gray found the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the Lake District in the country’s northwest—and he didn’t come empty-handed. As warm light brushed the sky with color, he carefully positioned his Claude glass, a convex, tinted mirror designed to soften and frame the landscape.

Gray’s depiction of that evening in his memoirs sounds a lot like a modern-day selfie accident. With his focus on the mirrored image, Gray said he “fell down on my back across a dirty lane with the glass open in one hand.” In a deft 18th-century #humblebrag, he added that he “broke only my knuckles, staid nevertheless, and saw the sun set in all its glory.”

Thomas Gray was an early adopter, but the Claude glass became a staple of 18th-century packing lists. Portable and compact, it was named for the French artist Claude Lorrain, whose paintings have a beatific glow reminiscent of a heavy-handed Instagram filter." -Jen Rose

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