Optical Devices and Pre-Cinematic Collections
Encompassing a highly unusual grouping of optical and perspectival devices, vues d'optiques, and games, this rare collection charts the nature of visual perception in European culture in the 18th and 19th centuries. Objects range in subject and date from a French camera obscura (ca. 1700) executed in the shape of a folio volume to common period items, such as magic lantern slides which entertained mass audiences in their time but survive today in limited numbers. The collection includes over 100 megalographs, which demonstrate the importance of projected images in the late-18th century, numerous 18th-century anamorphosis watercolors with their original cone or cylinder viewers, collapsible paper Engelbrecht theaters dating from the mid-18th century, and such fundamental viewing devices as a camera lucida, a Lorrain mirror, and a hand-held camera obscura. Such tools were the basis of artistic practice for two centuries.