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Dr Christopher Maxwell and Mandy Kritzeck from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York State are presenting an online FHS talk this Sunday 20th June 2021 at 19.00 (BST)

Published by on 17 June 2021

Dr Christopher Maxwell and Mandy Kritzeck from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York State are presenting an online FHS talk this Sunday 20th June 2021 at 19.00 (BST)

In May 2021 the Corning Museum of Glass opened a special exhibition 'In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain during the 1700s,' with an accompanying publication entitled In Sparkling Company: Reflections on Glass in the 18th-Century British World. The exhibition draws on the Museums extensive collection of tableware, lighting, and accessories and includes loans from ten major institutions, including five in Britain From plate glass to East India trade, science to slavery, costume to confectionary, it presents a survey of the many innovations, functions and meanings of glass in Britain during the 'age of politeness'. 

Among the highlights of the exhibition are the remaining panels of the glass drawing room, designed by Robert Adam for the 1st Duke of Northumberland in the early 1770s. Conserved for the exhibition and lent by the V&A Museum, they are displayed in Corning alongside Adam's original colour design drawings, on loan from Sir John Soane's Museum. In addition, Corning has led a multi-year project involving numerous stakeholders to bring this now-lost interior back to life through virtual reality.

Dr Christopher Maxwell, Curator of Early Modern Glass at The Corning Museum of Glass, curated the exhibition and edited the accompanying publication. He will talk through the exhibition and Mandy Kritzeck, Digital Media Producer and Project Manager, will explain the making of the Northumberland House virtual reality reconstruction. 

There are several references in BIFMO to the furniture makers who worked to refurbish the London home for the 1st Duke of Northumberland. The most significant among these are the entries for Henry Walle & Peter Reilly, who worked as partners between 1768 and 1786. They dealt In luxury goods and provided their services to several important and wealthy clients. In June 1773, Peter Reilley negotiated the supply of mirrors for the Glass Drawing Room at Northumberland House, London at a price of £1,465. Fascinatingly, the firm engaged in smuggling Venetian glass, apparently using diplomatic channels to conspire with the Venetian resident, Baron Berlendinni, to import luxury goods through the Venetian diplomatic pouch.  In 1772 the firm was raided by customs officers, who impounded ‘several hundred of chairs and sofas, near a ton of curled hair, a large quantity of brass nails, a great number of marble tables, some very rich slab frames, carved and gilt, silk lace, tapestry etc.’ Although the firm was declared bankrupt, Walle & Reilly continued to trade. In 1773 they supplied mirrors to Northumberland House. However, because they once again attempted to circumvent British customs by smuggling in mirror glass, the Duke was forced to pay 75% duty on their behalf.

Another supplier listed In BIFMO is James Cullen, (1736-79), an upholder, cabinet maker, upholsterer, interior decorator and house furnisher with businesses in Edinburgh and London. He was also involved with Berlendinni, and the smuggling of goods, along with Walle and Reilly. He supplied a suite of gilt seat furniture comprising armchair and settees in the French style for the glass drawing room, which are now at Syon House. One of these is stamped, J. Cullen, confirming the attribution:

To book a place for this event (Free for FHS members), please go to the events section on the Furniture History Society website.