Compound Microscope and Case

Object Details


Compound Microscope and Case


Micrometric stage invented by Michel-Ferdinand d'Albert d'Ailly, sixth duke of Chaulnes (French, 1714 - 1769)
Gilt-bronze mounts attributed to Jacques Caffieri (French, 1678 - 1755, master 1714)




Paris, France (Place created)


about 1751


Gilt bronze, enamel, shagreen and glass; wood, tooled leather, brass, velvet, silver galon and various natural specimens

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This microscope was made for an aristocratic amateur scientist, who would have used it in his cabinet de curiosité to explore the mysteries of the natural world. These cabinets were single rooms, or even an elaborate series of rooms, containing a variety of natural specimens including shells, fossils, minerals, bottles of preserved animals, and a variety of stuffed exotic animals including armadillos and crocodiles.

The Getty Museum's microscope still works, and the case is fitted with a drawer filled with the necessary attachments such as tweezers, extra lenses, and slides of such items as geranium petals, hair, fly wings, and fleas. Some of the slides are from the 1800s, indicating that the instrument was in continual use for over a century.

With attachments such as an ocular micrometer, the microscope incorporates the latest scientific technology of the mid-1700s. The design of its curving gilt bronze stand was the height of the Rococo style when it was created. A microscope of this same model belonged to Louis XV, King of France, and was part of his observatory at the Château de La Muette.

Related Works
Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002
Paris: Life & Luxury (April 26, 2011 to January 2, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 26 to August 7, 2011
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, September 18, 2011 to January 2, 2012
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Looking at French Decorative Arts